July 15, 2024

For Companies, Risk of Cargo Theft in Asia

The container was then driven to Port Klang, the busiest port in the country, and loaded onto a ship bound for Japan.

It was a routine procedure for Sagami Rubber Industries, a Japanese company, but by the time the ship docked in the port of Yokohama at the end of January, the condoms had vanished.

“The container was empty,” said K.K. Leung, the administration manager at Sagami’s Malaysian factory whose Japanese colleagues had alerted him to the theft.

The case of the missing condoms made headlines in Malaysia, but it was not an isolated case, according to industry groups.

Sagami, they say, was yet another victim of cargo theft, an underreported crime that sometimes includes violent hijackings in this Southeast Asian country.

The transporting of goods through countries in the Asia-Pacific region is generally safer than in other parts of the world — like the Americas, Africa and Europe — according to data collected by FreightWatch International, an organization in the United States that collates information on cargo theft from around the world.

But the organization’s global threat assessment report published in February 2011 states that “there’s little question that cargo theft and supply chain risk have increased throughout Asia” — a worry for international companies as economic momentum shifts eastward.

Malaysia, which lies along a number of important trading routes, is a particular concern. The country is increasingly becoming a key thoroughfare, as more companies ship their goods to and from neighboring Singapore, one of the world’s busiest ports, which is connected to much of the rest of Southeast Asia by road through Malaysia.

Industry groups say the number of companies taking preventive measures like employing armed guards to protect their trucks in Malaysia has increased in recent years, amid growing awareness of the threat of cargo theft.

“There’s a syndicate in Malaysia which is quite rampant,” said Alvin Chua, president of the Federation of Malaysian Freight Forwarders. He added that this group of bandits had focused on trucks carrying electronics in recent years.

The freight federation holds regular information sessions for its 1,200 members in which they discuss how they can better protect their cargo with measures like installing GPS devices and attaching electronic seals to containers to track their location around the globe.

“There’s a lot of things we tell our members to do, but it’s still happening,” Mr. Chua said.

The measures to increase security appear to be having an effect, though. Figures provided by the Malaysian police show that cargo crime has declined in recent years, from 357 reported incidents in 2006 to 60 last year. In the first four months of this year, 21 incidents were reported. The police figures list the number of incidents, but not the value of the goods stolen.

Superintendent Fadil Marsus of the police Criminal Investigation Department said a number of operations conducted by the police and cooperation with the industry had helped reduce freight crime.

But the precise level of cargo theft in Malaysia has proved hard to pin down.

Companies are reluctant to report thefts because they are afraid the information may damage their reputations and increase their insurance premiums, said Tony Lugg, the Asia representative of the Transported Asset Protection Association, a nonprofit organization that provides security advice to technology and logistics companies.

The association estimates that more than $22.7 million worth of goods was reported stolen from Malaysian ports, airports, warehouses and trucks from 2007 to 2010.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=6fb174afe2eb64bb643c95ce2dcaa58d

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