Cargo theft up as thieves take advantage of increased traffic, idled shipments

Close-up of sealed metal shipping container, hanging open lock after burglary

Record container backlogs at U.S. ports and overstressed supply chains are creating conditions ripe for cargo theft, according to experts.

“The backlog across all logistics infrastructure is causing containers and shipments to sit idle, not just in the ports but outside the ports, increasing opportunities for them to be targeted by criminals,” Ron Greene, vice president of business development at Overhaul, told FreightWaves.

Overhaul is a real-time visibility and risk management platform based in Austin, Texas. Cargo that finally makes its way out of backlogged ports is being aggressively targeted by criminals eyeing containers filled with everything from home appliances and electronic goods to apparel and more. Union Pacific recently reported a rash of cargo container break-ins as shipments were being transported out of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach through downtown LA. JJ Coughlin, owner of Corporate Security Solutions of Texas, said there’s an old saying: “Freight at rest is freight at risk.”

“Especially right now at places like the Port of Los Angeles, the trains come to the port and they take containers off of the ship and put them on the train, then those containers are sitting for days on end and not moving,” Coughlin said. Coughlin recently worked a case for an electronics company that had about a $1 million theft  from logistics facilities around the Port of LA.

“Somewhere between the ship and the train, most likely on the train once it got there, the theft occurred,” Coughlin said. “It was most likely to do with sitting for a long time.” With train shipments, freight moving from the West Coast or East Coast to places across the U.S. will sit idle on single-track railways in certain places.

“Based on railroad protocol, certain trains have to yield to the other trains,” Coughlin said. “A lot of times they might be in the middle of the desert, but they have to pull over and let this other train going in the other direction pass. Once again, they’re sitting still and they get hit even out there.” Not only does idle freight create more opportunities for thieves, it also complicates trying to protect freight in transit, according to Scott Cornell, transportation lead, crime and theft specialist at Travelers

“Supply chain backups create more complexities around cargo theft too, when you have more of it sitting in more places,” Cornell said. “You also create more locations geographically where the thefts occur. You have a harder time pinpointing where you’re going to see it and where you need to protect yourself above all other areas.”

Read more: FreightWaves

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