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Clearing West Coast backlog puts pressure on cargo security

The recent contract agreement between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) has led to a surge of freight movement—and that means increased opportunity for cargo thieves, according to a recent threat assessment fromFreightwatch International

“Wolves will be waiting as droves of unsuspecting sheep exit the paddock and wander the prairie,” the report says. “As the massive backlog of cargo begins to release into the supply chain, the frenetic situation will be rife with opportunity for cargo criminals.” 

The “center of gravity” for west coast port operations focuses primarily in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle. From 2013 to 2014, 25% of all recorded cargo theft in the United States occurred within 200 miles of these three ports, according to Freightwatch. 

These crimes posted theft rates higher than the national average: 81% for the Clothing & Shoes category, and 47% for Electronics. 

The requirement to move this enormous surge of cargo coupled with the “systemic lack of driver assets” yields a decreased quality of available carriers moving the cargo through the volatile terrain, the analysis explains. 

Fewer and fewer of these drivers have experience with or awareness of proper in-transit security protocols. And shippers and carriers will have demanding requirements to move product, often overriding necessity for following best practices for transportation security. 

The situation also allows for complacency in security practices as the focus will be on the efficient movement of backlogged cargo and the restoration of normal port operations and capacity, the report notes. 

In the last two years, “fictitious pickups” in the three port regions discussed were 100% higher than the national average, according to Freightwatch. 
“This target rich environment coupled with the tumultuous situation creates the perfect storm for organized cargo criminals proficient in the myriad of identity theft techniques,” the report says.

The FreightWatch International Supply Chain Intelligence Center (FWI SCIC) recommends shippers take precautionary measures as cargo will remain vulnerable throughout this process: Layered security programs, including covert GPS tracking and active monitoring, are essential to ensure that proper protocol is being followed and can be invaluable during the recovery process should a theft occur, the company says. 

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