The detection and prevention of cargo theft


Many companies suffer losses through cargo theft, particularly small businesses, yet it is an area of business crime that receives scant attention. A single truckload of cargo can be worth as much as $3 million. The risk of theft, especially if the goods have a black market value, is very real. Worldwide, the direct cost of cargo theft is estimated at about US$30 billion per year, with indirect costs many times higher.

Cargo theft occurs in freight-forwarding yards, warehouses and during transportation in trucks, as airfreight and on ships. Cargo is particularly vulnerable while in the process of being loaded or unloaded from trucks, or through documentary fraud. For a small business operating on a just-in-time basis, the loss of freight may threaten viability—particularly if insurance cover is inadequate or compensation payments are contested. Further, the illegal sale of stolen cargo undercuts prices in legitimate businesses. This paper provides an overview of cargo theft, and discusses some target-hardening, freight-forwarding and inventory control strategies that can be adopted by smaller organisations to reduce the risks.

This project was funded by the Crime Prevention Branch of the Criminal Justice Division, Commonwealth Attorney-General's Department.