Cargo theft: Mitigating risk requires game plan
Forsaith, also chairman of the Pharmaceutical Cargo Security Coalition, says Purdue, along with many in the pharmaceuticals industry, complies with U.S. Customs law by vetting all business partners. Forsaith interrogates people Purdue does business with at least once a year and also visits businesses physically.
He says the best approach to preventing cargo theft is a layered one.
“That layered approach doesn’t put all your chips on one square. Much like U.S. Customs requires, it says you need to know who it is you’re doing business with. You need to know what airline it is that’s going to fly your product. You need to know exactly how your product is being packaged or stored,” he says. “You have to physically go out and meet with these people, check those facilities, pay attention to the security that’s involved in the warehousing or loading of that aircraft and how it’s unloaded on the other end.”
Keep on trucking
Chain of custody, points of handoff and consolidation, layered approach – all these phrases point to the fact that air cargo goes through many people and entities before it reaches its destination.
Trucking companies are usually involved. If you want to talk about air cargo theft and security, you need to talk about truck security.
“Even if you handle your cargo as air cargo, the majority is still transported at the end of the leg or the beginning by truck,” Thorsten Neumann, Germany-based chairman of the Europe, Middle East, Africa region for the Transported Asset Protection Association, says. “This is clearly the weakest link within an end-to-end supply chain solution.”
TAPA provides a forum for its more than 300 member companies to converse about cargo security.
Beadling says knowing where to route trucks helps deter air cargo theft.
Neumann says logistics companies’ low margins present one of the biggest security hurdles.
“Many companies still do believe that security is purely a cost factor,” he says, “but if you take really a look and calculate your investment on security and compare that with non-secured trucks or non-secured routings, you will see that your returns in investment are tremendous.”
Cargo at rest
The saying goes that cargo at rest is cargo at risk.
Hoffer says thieves are less likely to snatch high-value cargo than general cargo because logistical hubs keep jewelry, cash and documents in cages. People take the general cargo that sits unattended, he says. He points to the iPad mini theft at JFK as an example of unattended cargo.
“If the cargo is at some intermediate point for any length of time, when it’s sitting, it’s vulnerable,” Beadling says.
Coughlin says air cargo is at the greatest risk for theft when it sits on the tarmac.
This presents a problem in Africa, Neumann says, where in some areas, the process flow is not controlled or even structured. He says high-value products can sometimes be stalled for days on the tarmac because of a lack of infrastructure.
It all comes back to having a well-planned supply chain for air cargo.
“Having an efficient and secure supply chain, those things go hand in hand because if it’s always moving, then the chance that something’s going to go wrong with it are minimized,” he says.
‘Beyond the loss of dollars’
Theft also presents another dilemma. If someone can get access to the cargo in order to steal it, that person can also put unwanted objects in the freight.
Coughlin tells of an incident where a cargo airline employee worked with drug smugglers to place pallets of marijuana into the airline’s system. The employee moved 15 or 20 of those pallets using a customer’s account.
“If you don’t control the freight handling, whether it’s theft or smuggling, it can easily happen,” Coughlin says.
But it can go further than drug smuggling, as the Yemen bomb plot in 2010 showed.
“I think it’s a real problem,” Hoffer says. “If that happened before, it can certainly happen again, and there has to be something in place where cargo in general terms has some mandate to be able to have an inspectable template for it so cargo that is moving through the supply chain can be looked at by every inspector.”