Freight theft during the Pandemic

Freight theft in Zambia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe,

“In Martin Scorcese’s classics from The Irishman to ‘Goodfellas’, black hats target valuable cargo in freight trailers such as sides of weapons and cigarettes – items one could easily sell at a discount on the black market. In reality, during recent times, anti-socials in African countries went with the same but followed market trends and demands like medicines, food items, chemicals, and pieces of machinery.”

Freight theft in Africa during the Pandemic
  • (Jan 2020 – May 2021) 

Throughout 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic, which continues to create disruptions, endanger supply chains, and have significant residual effects internationally, global supply chains face one of the most serious challenges to security, continuity, and resiliency. 

Indiscriminately, it created anomalous challenges in 2020 for African countries, adding new tangled threats to pre-existing logistic threats. Along with lockdowns, declined supplies, and transport curtailments, Freight Theft trends shifted to focus on new higher-value goods and locations. 

In Africa, cargo thefts occurred at a high rate in countries including South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, and Nigeria. An increased rate of theft occurred in Zimbabwe and Mozambique in 2020. This is likely due to the worsening security situation in and around the Beira port complex and the overall increase in thefts from trailers and trucks in production facilities prompted by the backup of goods due to the spread of COVID-19 in 2020.

These thefts, at a minimum, delay the progress of shipments through the supply chain and, at a maximum result, in a total loss of goods due to the breach of shipment integrity.

During the first half of 2020, criminals altered their freight theft methodologies by branching out their theft locations and increasingly targeting trucks in facilities, warehouses, production facilities, and secured and unsecured parking lots.

How did the cargo theft happen?

All the theft incidents involve a wide range of stolen products such as batteries, tarpaulins, fuel, electricals, chemicals, pieces of equipment, automobiles, personal belongings, and even boxes of noodles. These items were stolen from various vehicles starting from company motorbikes to cars to trucks. 

The pattern of most of the thefts along with the corresponding real incidents is discussed below,

  • Intimidating drivers In April 2021, a driver from Beira transporters got robbed by criminals in Zimbabwe. He lost his personal belongings including his wallet, trip money, and driving license. This pattern of theft doesn’t limit to only robbing personal belongings but also batteries and pieces of equipment. 
  • Looting from unsecured parking lots – In March 2021, a driver from Harare parked his truck at the toll gate for the night due to headlight problems. The fuel had been stolen from the truck which he found out only the next morning. This pattern ultimately may lead to the theft of the entire truck.
  • Abandoned trucks without drivers – One such incident took place in January 2021, fearing the police patrol, the driver abandoned the truck abruptly in Cape Town. 
  • Without the awareness of drivers – During the first half of 2021, a driver reported to a mechanic that his truck was not starting. Upon checking, it was later discovered that the truck’s Engine Control Module (ECM) was stolen.
  • Seizing the truck trailers – In Chinhoyi, a driver after loading the trailer, went to the weighbridge and there was an excess load. They eventually asked the driver to return the excess. As the driver disagreed, they seized the trailer. It wasn’t clear that the officials were real ones.

How often these freight theft occurred in Africa region?

During the period of our study from January 2020 to May 2021, It had been reported that a total of 149 incidents took place around the regions of Africa. From the numbers, it is evident that the theft rate during May and June of 2020 is comparatively low owing to the lockdown restrictions. The theft studies exclusively covered the incidents that happened in Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Mozambique.

Trivia from the study

  • Zimbabwe records the highest number of theft reporting roughly 70+ incidents.
  • Out of these, most thefts occurred in and around the outskirts of Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe (30+ incidents)
  • Mozambique also holds a large number of freight thefts, particularly in the port of Beira, which is the fourth-largest city in the country by population.
  • More than 15% of the cases involve the theft of tarpaulin sheets, while the other 10% being fertilizers.
  • A significant amount of thefts reported on stealing components of truck trailers such as spare wheels, cargo straps, fuel, and glass doors.

What can drivers do to prevent this freight theft in logistics?

These theft incidents may rely on the psychology and behavioral aspects of the criminals. However, in today’s digital world, it can be regulated through the adoption of the Freight Management System (FMS) into the cargo supply chain routines. Ripples-FMS works better in such situations as it can easily integrate with the Fleet Management module. 

Here are some of the benefits gained from the Logistics ERP system,

  • Optimize and consolidate – loads and routes 
  • Increased customer satisfaction and experience
  • Select the best route – time as well as risk saving
  • Visibility of the loads and trucks – answers ‘Where’s my truck?’
  • Track and trace the shipments 
  • Save freight logistic expenses – 10-25% ideally
Call us to know more about ERP software solutions for preventing freight logistics theft.

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