02 January 2017

Anti-Theft Technology Improves as Freight Thieves Step Up Their Own Efforts  

Will 2017 be a Happy New Year for Supply Chain Criminals with 3D Printers?

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Shipping News Feature WORLDWIDE – Firstly of course a very happy and prosperous New Year to all readers of the Handy Shipping Guide and users of our Freight Directory which will be undergoing even more expansion of both destinations and categories over the next few months. We shall continue to try and offer the major news stories concerned with any logistics matters whilst trying to ensure we remain a little more interesting and off kilter than the rest. For this, the first story of the year we felt it time to address a problem for all cargo carriers and shippers, container terminals and road haulage operators and the like, that of theft in its myriad forms.

As technology develops the methods of deterring and preventing theft increase in number and efficiency, unfortunately the miscreants concerned are also becoming ever more able to defeat unwitting supply chain users. Containers continue to be one of the prime units of carriage but remain vulnerable due to the fact they are generally unaccompanied for a major part of their journey. Of late there have been considerable advances in protecting otherwise vulnerable boxes, it is over four years since US east coast ports introduced RFID systems to monitor incoming and outgoing trucks, something now becoming widespread. One of the most significant developments has been the ability of shippers to seal a container with devices able to report back unscheduled incidents, doors being opened, boxes being dropped etc.

Also we have seen the advent of more secure containers such as those offered by Cakeboxx Technologies, which, when sealed, offer no possibility of opening doors, the most vulnerable spot on any normal ISO box. Whilst on that subject it seems even the traditional method of spotting interference with cargo is no longer reliable. Of late a gang, thought to be based in Europe, has managed to produce cargo seals, identical to the originals even in number sequence, to replace the originals sealing the doors. These are churned out via a 3D printer and effectively can set shipper and consignor at each other’s throats, possibly blissfully unaware that a theft has even taken place whilst the goods were actually in transit, rather than short loaded.

So how does one protect a container yard full of vulnerable tempting targets? The answer may well be found in our story, published in March, which finally spotted a worthwhile use for that drone technology which PR firms have been exaggerating to ridiculous heights (both figuratively and literally). The extension of drone surveillance to enhance and improve fixed security cameras provides the terminal with a useful tool against intruders.

So, with container security explored, what of those soft sided vehicles, the tilts, tautliners and curtainsides so popular with domestic road hauliers. Truth be told an unaccompanied trailer will always be vulnerable to a thief with time and opportunity. If the risk of observation or capture is low a couple of quick passes with a craft knife or box cutter can produce an open flap in the side making an open panel through which goods can be both examined and extracted.

This type of theft often occurs even when the driver is asleep in his cab and the consequences when such a crime goes wrong may be nothing less that horrific. The only protection is to ensure sufficient safe parking areas are provided, something which still isn’t being done in many otherwise civilised countries. Whilst in the UK we have seen plans to negate ‘Operation Stack’ on the crowded roads to the Channel ports in times of bad weather or industrial action, the sight of foreign drivers parked illegally at the side of motorways and trucks drawn up in isolated areas at night persists, both here, and throughout parts of Europe and the US.

One area where we have seen immense improvements over the years is the downturn in ocean piracy. Since the bad old days of 2008 the forces such as EU NAVFOR, coupled with the use of private security guards travelling with individual ships or in convoys has drastically reduced the numbers of successful attacks, particularly in the Indian Ocean, a former hotspot. Provided such precautions are maintained, and indeed expanded into other troubled areas, one might hope that the modern pirate will fade into obscurity and legend like his predecessors on the Spanish Main.

One concern for the guardians is of course the note of alarm sounded by the crew of the Seaman Guard Ohio, the thirty or so still incarcerated in India include six British men who this week thanked all who have supported calls for their release, a list which include such notables as the British Prime Minister. So consider as you consign the turkey carcass to oblivion that their only hope for a decent New Year is to be able to return to their homelands.

Photo: Piracy is finally under control thanks to those such as these EU forces.

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