Cargo Theft Up 42% in California
The peak season is often a time of particular danger for shippers’ cargo from cargo theft. For the last 18 months, it has felt like a continuous peak season, with near-record to record high levels of cargo reaching U.S. ports. With the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach being the busiest ports in the U.S., handling approximately 40% of the imports to arrive in the country, and among the worst in terms of congestion, it is not surprising that cargo theft has seen an increase in the Golden State. Cuts in police budgets in Los Angeles and other major cities in California also don’t help. Police cuts in 2020 also coincided with an alarming 30% increase in murders, according to data from Los Angeles, Oakland, San Diego, and San Francisco.
The end result is higher risk for cargo moved in and through California in 2021. An Insurance Journal article reported the following about the third quarter of 2021:
Theft reports along the West coast of the United States increased 42% year-over-year. California continues to see frequent thefts of high-end computer electronics shipments, [CargoNet] said.
Dani Romero reported in Yahoo! Finance:
Thieves made off with greater than $5 million value of products as a result of so-called supply-chain theft in California in the third quarter of 2021, according to CargoNet’s data.
For those of you unfamiliar with CargoNet, it is a company that runs a national database on cargo theft as well as a cargo theft prevention and recovery network.
California Is Not Alone
Cargo theft is not only a problem in California. Romero also reports:
California topped the list of states most targeted by thieves, CargoNet data showed — followed by Texas and Florida. As much as $45 million in cargo thefts have been reported from January to September. In 2020, cargo thefts reached $68 million and in 2019 they hit $49 million, according to the analysis, with the pace of theft is expected to continue through 2022. [sic.]
Overall Cargo Theft Down in Q3 2021 Vs. Q3 2020
There is, however, some good news in all of this. Despite California’s dramatic year-over-year increase, cargo theft overall (for the U.S. and Canada) in the third quarter of 2021 significantly decreased year-over-year. Cargo theft being down is actually the headline Insurance Journal ran with. They opened their article with the number of supply chain thefts of the quarter and the comparison statistics:
There were 359 supply chain theft and fraud incidents across the United States and Canada in the third quarter of 2021, according to CargoNet.
They included 294 total theft incidents that involved theft of a trucking vehicle like a semi-truck or theft of cargo, the cargo theft prevention and recovery network reported.
This was a 19% decrease from third quarter of 2020, but overall 2020 was a record-setting year for theft. When compared to the third quarter of 2019, theft reports were up 13% this third quarter.
Those last two lines dampen the good news. Cargo theft overall is still up from what it was in 2019, but at least it has significantly decreased from 2020, which saw a spike in the crime.
How To Protect Against Cargo Theft
Cargo theft is a topic that has come up from time to time in Universal Cargo’s blog. We always want to help our customers’ shipping go as smoothly as possible. So how do you protect yourself and your business from cargo theft?
This may sound like an obvious answer, but many shippers try to avoid cargo insurance. I understand the sentiment. When renting cars, I have often foregone getting the insurance to save the money. However, when it comes to international shipping, there are just too many risks to make skimping out on insurance a wise idea.
On top of theft, there’s vandalism, loss, damage, seizure, and more that could go wrong. Make sure you or your business partners (if the incoterm deal type you use puts the insurance responsibility on them) properly insure your cargo.
Keep Your Cargo Moving
There’s an old saying in the international shipping industry, it was even quoted in Romero’s article, “Freight at rest is freight at risk.” I’ve often heard it as, “A container at rest is a container at risk.”
When cargo containers are sitting idle, they are at the most risk for theft or vandalism. Shippers can’t completely control this. Congestion at ports, like we’ve been seeing for the last year plus, can cause shipping containers to sit idly at no fault of the shippers. Truckers may need to rest, make stops, or take breaks when transporting cargo, creating moments of vulnerability. However, if shippers don’t handle all their responsibilities promptly and correctly through the course of a shipment, that can also lead to delays, putting more risk on their cargo.
Hire the Right Freight Forwarder
Businesses new to international shipping, especially, need to be careful to hire the right freight forwarder to help them import and export their goods. An experienced freight forwarder knows everything shippers need to do to keep their imports and exports moving as smoothly as possible.
With its 35+ years of experience as a trusted freight forwarder, Universal Cargo guides businesses through the shipping process, putting its well-developed network to work for you. At Universal Cargo, we also keep our fingers on the pulse of the industry, considering potential upcoming threats, like next year’s dockworker contract expiration and negotiations, so we can advise our customers on routes and supply chain options less likely to suffer costly disruptions.