E-commerce has become an indispensable part of global trade both for B2C and for B2B companies during the last few years. The Statista market survey firm estimates that 2.14 billion people will do their shopping online in 2021. The need for customers to purchase goods on the internet increased once again vigorously during 2020 – primarily because of the COVID-19 pandemic – resulting in a strong demand for contact-free shopping.
Due to the surge in online shopping, threats to delivery services have also increased. Criminals have set their eyes on international and local shipments of high-value goods. A massive demand for smartphones around the world has led to a booming black market in stolen mobile devices.
Logistics experts, particularly in South Africa, are having to battle against attacks on consignments. Intensified activities by organised syndicates, as well as opportunistic incidents, are the reality. According to Statista, 1,202 trucks were hijacked in South Africa between April 2019 and March 2020. Some of these robberies are carried out with military precision.
Theft not only leads to losses in turnover, but can also damage the importer’s reputation. Logistics service providers are therefore constantly looking for opportunities to minimise the threats and guarantee the integrity of their customers’ shipments. At the same time, it is important to control their costs and stay competitive. This is an ongoing process, as the syndicates are becoming more and more ingenious. This means that flexible, proactive risk management is indispensable.
Importers and exporters should cooperate with logistics partners that have highly developed safety protocols and systems. Those service providers cooperate with the local authorities to prevent thefts of consignments. Strong connections to anti-hijacking units and the private security industry also play an important role in protecting high-value shipments.
Comprehensive supply chain risk management includes ensuring that the collection of sensitive freight is not delayed at the incoming port by proactive customs clearance. Dedicated pick-up vehicles and employees airside make it possible for the goods to be picked up immediately after the plane has landed. Logistics specialists should also follow modern security protocols during transportation.
Some of the key factors in risk management include 24/7 visibility of the freight including vehicle tracking and onboard video monitoring, which is supervised by highly qualified in-house security personnel. The insurance agreement often requires armour-plated and armed escorts, which offer immediate response, when required. The speed of the transport and the minimum number of intermediate stops are major factors for safe deliveries.
In order to protect drivers and cargo against threats, regular security awareness coaching sessions should form part of their training. They get to know all the important precautionary measures which require that they remain vigilant of their surrounding area at all times, that they lock doors and that they keep their distance to the vehicles ahead of them when they make a stop. The drivers are alerted to the deceptive practices that are used by syndicates, such as fake roadblocks and staged accidents. They learn how they can prevent hijackings by selecting guarded parking areas with video monitoring and safe filling stations. The drivers are also given step-by-step instructions and physical training on how to respond in case of an emergency.
In the current economic climate, freight crime is not only expected to continue, but to rise even further. Threats to shipping high-value goods by road will include syndicates and the theft of consignments for the foreseeable future. Logistics specialists must try to be always one step ahead by continually developing their tactics and investing in technical solutions such as advanced monitoring tools and security equipment like armour-plated vehicles. However, they do not have the capacity to fight crime on their own. The logistics and security sectors need to work together and share information and resources.
Rhenus South Africa has more than 20 years of experience in handling sensitive cargo. The company’s premises and fleet are monitored around the clock by trained personnel. Rhenus ensures the safe handling of freight in southern Africa with the help of its own airfreight facility at OR Tambo International Airport and a full supply chain solution for clearance, warehousing, domestic and cross-border distribution.
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