Cargo heists, and security costs, on the rise – Rhenus Logistics

A surge in international freight rates of up to 700% is putting many companies under pressure and forcing them to take drastic measures to ensure their sustainability.  In some cases, organisations are left with little choice but to cut costs when moving cargo, with some opting to reduce the expenses on security.  Advertisement

With South Africa’s soaring crime rate, this approach could have dangerous and unintended consequences, says Rhenus Logistics South Africa (SA). The company says it has been forced to constantly look at ways to minimise threats and ensure the integrity of its customers’ shipments, while also reducing costs. Advertisement

The number of reported truck hijackings in South Africa has escalated by 32% over the past year. According to the Statista data and research group, 1 202 truck hijackings occurred between April, 2019, and March, 2020, often ending with violent attacks on drivers.  With the sharp increase in online shopping as a result of Covid-19, courier vehicles are now also increasingly being targeted. 

Heightened activity by organised syndicates, as well as opportunistic incidents, are a reality.   “Criminals have become much more brazen in their approach,” says Rhenus Logistics SA risk manager Martin Taylor. “The industry is now experiencing far more orchestrated heists, with groups of up to 25 robbers going after one delivery vehicle.

“It has become a strategy of ‘shoot first, steal later’, which means that cargo drivers are now more at risk than ever.  “Although high-value goods are most sought-after, all cargo is at risk, which means that all deliveries are vulnerable.” Rhenus Logistics SA says it follows strict security protocols as a company, including ongoing anti-hijacking training for drivers, as well as vehicle tracking and on-board video surveillance that is monitored 24/7 by trained control room personnel. 

“Cargo crime is not only going to continue, but will increase,” notes Taylor.  “Law enforcement bodies, including the crime intelligence unit of the South African Police Service, have expanded their operations and are doing what they can, but they don’t have the capacity to fight crime by themselves.  “It needs to be a collective effort involving all stakeholders, including the public. 

“The logistics and security industries are collaborating and sharing information and resources in efforts to combat ongoing crime.”  “Theft results in lost sales, but also has the potential for reputational damage, should an importer’s brand be associated with a public incident,” adds Rhenus Logistics SA COO Rob Stead. “And of course, our biggest concern is for the safety of staff members and the public that needs to be ensured at all times.” 

According to Stead, the cost of security in the supply chain can be as much as 11% of the value of goods.  He believes it is important for cargo owners to carefully consider areas of risk mitigation, in order to optimise security expenses.  “Security awareness and agile, proactive risk management are essential. 

“Importers needing to have their goods transported, should partner with companies that have highly-developed security protocols and systems in place, such as 24/7 camera surveillance. This will minimise risk and help them build more secure and resilient supply chains.”  The key to successful risk management is vigilance and agility in adapting cargo handling processes, he notes.

“It’s an ongoing process as syndicates become more and more sophisticated – so we need to constantly evaluate developments and stay ahead of the criminals.”