Product thefts from supply chains in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) in 2020 produced losses of more than €172 million despite most of the region being in lockdown as nations took drastic steps to prevent the spread of coronavirus, according to the Transported Asset Protection Association’s (TAPA) Cargo Theft Annual Report.

Based only on data reported to the Association’s Incident Information Service (IIS), in a year when governments were advising their populations to ‘stay at home and work from home’, TAPA EMEA still recorded 6,463 new cargo thefts across a record number of 56 countries in the region, and an average loss for every day of 2020 of €471,432.

The average loss for major cargo crimes with individual losses of €100,000 or more in 2020 was €529,348.

The high numbers, however, remain only a fraction of the losses TAPA EMEA believes are being suffered by Manufacturers/Shippers and Logistics Service Providers in EMEA. The total loss for 2020 is based on only the 65.1% of reports to TAPA EMEA’s IIS which shared financial data. Moreover, the world’s leading supply chain security and resilience Association, says most cargo thefts during road, ocean, airfreight and rail transportation are still not reported by victims to its incident database.

In 2020, 74.6% of all incidents recorded by TAPA EMEA involved cargo thefts in the United Kingdom and Germany, with 3,100 and 1,727 crimes respectively over the 12-month period. In both cases, the statistics – while reinforcing both countries’ reputations as cargo crime hotspots in EMEA – more accurately reflect the proactive sharing of cargo crime data by British and German Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs). Six other countries recorded triple-digit incident rates:
“2020 will go down in history as a year like no other. At a time when most businesses were focused almost entirely on a fight for survival, and law enforcement agencies faced the added pressure of policing new government lockdowns, traditional channels of cargo crime data were, as expected, also severely impacted. Consequently, it is difficult to give a meaningful comparison with previous years. However, while some criminal operations would have been disrupted by lockdown measures, 2020 still saw the second-highest rate of incidents in TAPA’s 24-year history, And, had we been able to maintain the same level of data sharing from LEAs across the region as we achieved in 2019, I am certain 2020 would have set a new record for cargo crimes in the EMEA region,” stated Thorsten Neumann, President & CEO of TAPA EMEA. “For Organised Crime Groups (OCGs) and other, smaller groups of offenders targeting supply chains, cargo crime is its own ‘industry’ offering very rich rewards. Although, TAPA EMEA members are among those companies best protected from these threats, the risks remain 24/7/365, even during a pandemic.” 

  • Russia – 307 incidents
  • Netherlands – 199
  • Spain – 178
  • Italy – 121
  • South Africa 105
  • Denmark – 101

Plenty of factors will have fuelled criminal activities in 2020, including widespread and, often, misleading media reports of product shortages and empty supermarket shelves. Job losses or the fear of unemployment will have opened up new ‘markets’ to buyers seeking bargains, and then there was the global race for scarce supplies of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) from governments, medical professionals and consumers. With demand exceeding supply, many cargo thieves clearly found the opportunity to target products too good to miss out on. In the 12 months covered by this report, 19 TAPA IIS product categories recorded cargo thefts.   

The top three product types suffering losses in 2020 were:
Other products suffering high loss rates from supply chains in the last calendar year included Furniture/Household Appliances (240 loss incidents), Clothing & Footwear (213), Cosmetics & Hygiene (150), Tools/Building Materials (97), Metal (87), Computers/Laptops (68), and Pharmaceuticals (67).

  1. Food & Drink – 536 cargo thefts
  2. Tobacco – 403 incidents
  3. No Load (Theft of truck and/or trailer) – 282 thefts

Quick to respond to changing market demand, cargo thieves also targeted shipments of Personal Protective Equipment as well as supply chains moving highly sought-after products such as face masks and hand sanitisers. In one crime alone in Spain in April, two million facemasks and other PPE equipment worth €5 million were stolen from an Origin Facility in Santiago de Compostela. This was far from the highest-value loss of the year, however, which involved the robbery of a cash-in-transit vehicle in Lyon, France, in August and the theft of over €9 million of cash. This was one of 19 incidents in 2020 recording losses of more than €1 million in TAPA’s incident database.

Trucks, trailers and Last Mile delivery vans were by far the most popular target for cargo thieves, as in previous years, led by 3,644 cases of Theft from Vehicle, 56.3% of all crimes recorded. This compared to only 212 crimes recorded as Theft from Facility in 2020.

With TAPA EMEA estimating a shortfall of over 2,000 secure truck parking sites and over 400,000 parking places in the region, vehicles were – once again – the most frequent victims of a cargo crime when they were parked in unsecured parking locations including roadside laybys, at truck stops and motorway service areas, or in open spaces on industrial estates. The lack of secure truck parking, especially in Europe, was identified in over half of all crime reports to TAPA’s IIS in 2020. 

Violence or the threat of violence was the modus operandi reported in 232 incidents, although, again, TAPA believes the true figure to be far higher. In 2020, particularly violent incidents reported to the Association involved fatalities of police officers, drivers, at least one member of the public, and offenders killed in gunfights with law enforcement officers. 31 of the 56 countries recorded cargo thefts involving violence. South Africa saw the highest number of violent attacks, followed by the United Kingdom, Spain and France.     

Criminals continued to deploy various types of M.O. to target goods in-transit and in facilities. These included the use of:
The global focus on supply chains throughout the Covid pandemic has brought one upside for TAPA EMEA with its membership in the region rising to a record level. Some 150 companies have joined the Association since the start of 2020 as more Manufacturers/Shippers and Logistics Service Providers look for proven ways to increase their supply chain resilience. As well as incident intelligence, TAPA EMEA offers industry standards for facilities, trucking operations and secure parking, as well as training and secure route planning tools.    

  • ‘Blue lights’ to impersonate police and traffic officers to stop trucks
  • GPS ‘jammers’ to block vehicle security tracking signals
  • Fake documentation for drivers, vehicles and companies to facilitate cargo collections
  • Roadblocks using cars, trucks and fires
  • Driving vehicles through closed gates to gain access to transport yards and warehouse facilities
  • Online freight exchanges to propose low-cost transportation services in order to be awarded shipment deliveries  
  • Gas attacks on drivers taking rest breaks in their cabs, ad the use by offenders of pepper sprays to incapacitate drivers
  • ‘Vehicle breakdown’ alerts by drivers on long distance routes in more remote locations to buy time for drivers, vehicles and loads to disappear

Marcel Saarloos, Chair of TAPA EMEA, added: “TAPA EMEA members’ supply chains are among the most resilient in the world but for the industry-at-large, the risk of cargo theft, and all of the business and reputational damage this causes, is never far away. Even though we know the big picture of cargo crime is far greater than the level of intelligence we receive, in the last two years alone, TAPA EMEA has recorded over 15,000 losses from supply chains in our region with a combined loss value of more than €310 million – which is the equivalent of €424,000 of goods being stolen from supply chains on every single day of 2019 and 2020. This should act as a big ‘wake-up call’ for everyone involved in the movement of goods by all modes of transport because almost every type of cargo is a target for criminals.”