March 11, 2015 | Industry Insights

Cargo Criminals Eye Backlogged Cargo in West Coast Ports

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As terminal operators and truckers try to process the weeks or months of backlogged cargo at West Coast ports, thieves are looking to grab low-hanging fruit.

From 2013 to 2014, 25% of all recorded cargo theft in the United States occurred within 200 miles of the ports of Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle, according to FreightWatch International. The surge in cargo activity resulting from the normalization of West Coast port operations is expected to stress trucking assets and port security. Fictitious pickups in the above-mentioned ports have been 100% higher than the national average over the past two years.

The pressure to process cargo speedily could lead to complacency or leniency in port security practices as well as carriers’ use of less seasoned drivers. Overriding best practices for transportation security could open doors for opportunistic thieves, including organized cargo theft groups.

The National Retail Federation estimates that cargo moving through the 29 ports on the West Coast of the U.S. represents 12.5% of the country’s gross domestic product! Put in a line, the containers that were awaiting unloading at the ports would have stretched 579 miles, according to the Associated Press. The Port of Los Angeles estimates it will take three months to get back to normal. Oakland figures on eight weeks.

The fourth quarter of 2014 saw a surge in the volume of cargo thefts in the U.S., Security Today reports, citing the Supply Chain Information Sharing and Analysis (SC ISAC) 2014 Q4 report. Reported incidents of cargo theft in the fourth quarter rose 40% from the third quarter, totaling 259 for the October-December period. Texas led in number of thefts, followed by Florida, California and New Jersey.

Weekends were the most active periods, and when Friday and Monday are included, the four-day period encompassed 70% of cargo crimes. Consumer electronics was the most popular target, with the usual first-place food tying for second with metals. When broken down by commodity, automotive supplies took the top spot, followed by steel. Fourth-quarter losses are estimated at $46 million.

With massive cargo flow and potential lapses in security at the ports and on the road, cargo carriers are urged to double down on their cargo theft prevention. While insurance for theft can help ease the pain of a theft in terms of money, the stress and potential permanent loss of clients is one your policy can’t take care of for you. Best business practices are crucial, especially when dealing with crisis management, such as those that carriers face at backlogged ports out West. At Roanoke Trade, we not only provide best-in-class cargo insurance, we also have risk management solutions that can help you round out your transportation operations.

We invite you to learn more about us, our experienced talent in this highly specialized area, our creative solutions, and the value we will bring to you and your clients. Please contact us at 1-800-ROANOKE.

Sources: Freight Watch, Security Today, Associated Press

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