Mixed reports on Asia Pacific crime

Terra firma incidents in the region may be in decline, but piracy on the high seas is surging

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Supply chain security provider Freightwatch International has released its semi-annual report on cargo theft in the Asia Pacific region for the first half of 2014, which contains some heartening news for U.S. shippers reliant on trucking, warehousing and retail.

In those landside sectors, analysts found a total of 53 truck theft incidents for the area for the year so far – a decrease from the 115 recorded incidents from the same period in 2013. Furthermore, of the countries reporting thefts, only Cambodia, Malaysia and Vietnam experienced an increase from 2013 to 2014. This is an impressive 54% drop.

Meanwhile, available data indicates a continued trend of fewer facility burglaries and hijackings in India, Malaysia, Bangladesh and the Philippines. At the same time, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Singapore have more commonly reported incidents of fraudulent activities. The overall loss value reported for the first half of 2014 was $12.66 million. This is substantially lower than the region’s $22.79 million loss value in the first half of 2013.

Reported truck hijackings dropped “drastically” from the first half of 2013, contributing to the overall decrease in the theft rate for the Asia-Pacific region. But the trend of reported incidents has seen a slight shift as collusion and intrusion became the two most commonly reported modus operandi in the first half of 2014 at 36% and 34% of reported incidents.

The report on individual cargoes is less encouraging, with the region seeing an increase in the value of the individual cargoes reported stolen, with freight thefts worth more than $100,000 up – 34% from the previous year.
Still, the overall average loss value decreased from $345,417 in the first half of 2013, to $287,911 this year – a 17% difference.

To its credit, FreightWatch says that the Asia Pacific region continues to experience “inconsistent and irregular” reporting, which may result in artificially low numbers of documented incidents. At the same time, Freightwatch does not chronicle the loss of life associated with cargo theft, but does acknowledge that violence often occurs when vehicles are hijacked.

Far more risk of persona injury or death is evident when an ocean cargo vessel is seized, say analysts at the Piracy Reporting Center at the International Maritime Bureau (IMB).

In Southeast Asia, at least six known cases of coastal tankers being hijacked for their cargoes of diesel or gas oil have been reported since April this year, sparking fears of a new trend in pirate attacks in the area. Until then, the majority of attacks in the region had been on vessels, mainly at anchor, boarded for petty theft.

IMB Director, Pottengal Mukundan calls the recent increase in the number of successful hijackings “a cause for concern,” and is advising ocean cargo carriers to maintain strict anti-piracy measures in these waters, and to report all attacks and suspicious approaches by small craft.

Indonesia accounts for 47 of the reported incidents with vessels boarded in 40 reports. The overwhelming number of these incidents are low-level thefts against vessels. At Pulau Bintan, 18 incidents were reported, prompting the Indonesian Marine Police to add this port to the list of 10 areas where patrols have increased this year.

Dryad Maritime, a maritime security consultancy, agrees that Southeast Asia remains the area with the highest number of maritime crime incidents. The boarding of vessels underway in the area of Singapore occur regularly, with 12 such cases report now reported during 2014.

Nineteen vessels also reported robberies, attempted robberies and suspicious approaches in the anchorages to the east of the Singapore Strait.

Nor is Dryad expecting to see the level of maritime crime fall in this region for the remainder of the year unless there is significant investment by local maritime forces in proactively countering this crime.

Might U.S. shippers consider this be another argument for near-shoring? Pacific Rim consultants suggest that indeed, security concerns may be enough of an incentive when all other considerations have been examined.


About the Author

Patrick Burnson
Patrick Burnson is executive editor for Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management Review magazines and web sites. Patrick is a widely-published writer and editor who has spent most of his career covering international trade, global logistics, and supply chain management. He lives and works in San Francisco, providing readers with a Pacific Rim perspective on industry trends and forecasts. You can reach him directly at [email protected]

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