Cargo theft South Africa

18 May by Logistics

Cargo theft South Africa

Cargo theft can be defined as a situation where outsiders try to steal the goods in transit, from the warehouses, parking lots, fuel stations, and in terms of legality, disrupting the supply chain and causing huge losses to the companies and is a severe threat to South Africa and African region economy in general.

Fleet, warehouse inventory. Cargo theft South Africa & Africa region

Trends of Cargo Theft in South Africa regions

Several forms of cargo theft exist, like direct thefts where the thieves directly steal the cargo physically from the career like trucks, hijacks, and piracy happens mostly when the driver tends to leave the vehicle parked at an insecure place. Cyber frauds also exist where the cyber attacker might fake identity and claim to be the owner of the goods.

With COVID-19 in the picture, the supply chain is one of the industries to be affected the most. It has also altered the trends in the cargo theft industry from the increased hijacking of trucks to increased facility theft in many regions. 

United Kingdom, Germany, India, Brazil are some countries to have incurred maximum losses from cargo theft in the world. South Africa is one of the countries to be affected the most by cargo theft in the African continent.

Cargo theft from truck vehicles was marked at 71%, with food & beverages being the most stolen commodities having a 31% share, followed by consumer products and electronic items.

The cargo theft trends saw an increase in the hijacking of 4% from 20% to 24% in 2020, whereas theft from facility increased to double from 12% to 24% in 2020. Fuel saw the maximum increase of theft in 2020 as compared to 2019.

Cargo theft in the African continent

Nigeria and South Africa were the most affected countries in the African continent from the cargo theft in 2020. Reasons being increased facility theft due to COVID-19 and deteriorating security situation in the Lagos- Apapa port in Nigeria.

According to TT club and BSI freight criminal report, the trends witnessed in these regions in 2020 can be defined as 

  • Facilities and warehouses were the primary targets for theft
  • Increased theft of medical devices followed by the increased supplies of alcohol and tobacco
  • The corruption within the supply chain played a significant part in the theft crimes recorded in the continent

COVID-19 has led to an increase in the theft of medicinal supplies like vaccines PPE kits in South Africa, Nigeria, and Egypt due to the lack of enough supply unable to meet the demand. Egypt has seen an increased theft in oxygen tanks because of the same reason. Even in 2021, it is likely that due to the increased level of corruption within the supply chain system and an imbalance between the demand and supply of medical facilities, theft of these commodities will increase.

While South Africa faces increased theft in medical facilities, North Africa, especially the countries of Morocco, Libya, Algeria, and Tunisia, are facing an increased transition of illegal drugs from South America to Europe.

The overall hijacking was the primary cargo theft type at 50% in the African region, with the cargo being looted chiefly when they were in transit mode. Fuel was the primary commodity to be stolen, followed by food and beverages in the continent.

Cargo theft trends in South Africa

South Africa is one of the top countries in the world to be forecasted by BSI to have incurred a significant loss from cargo thefts, majorly involving hijacking and now facility theft.

Due to restrictions on the movement of goods because of COVID-19, theft from warehouses and depots has increased. There are often corrupt employees in the supply chain management, helping the thieves enter the warehouses, inform the goods’ location, and use their intelligence in the greed of money.

There were also cases reported where criminals disguised themselves as police officers. They would ask the driver to park the vehicle on the roads where the whole gang would loot the vehicle. Cross-border connections and slower freight clearances start making the goods more vulnerable to theft and often end up in violence in the country.

Main cities at the risk of cargo theft include Johannesburg, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Pretoria, Cape Town, Bloemfontein.

Fuel and food and beverages were amongst the top commodities to be stolen in 2020. Trucks, being the primary modality of cargo theft. 

According to BSI and TT club, the significant trends in cargo theft in the country can be defined as

  • Increased theft from facilities in the first half of the year
  • Eastern Cape and Western Cape inclined in cargo theft during the first two quarters of the year
  • Food & beverages and medical supplies saw an increase in theft in the second quarter of the year

Gauteng maintained the top location for cargo theft in the country, followed by KwaZulu – Natal. 

There is a trend of sophisticated cargo theft groups in the country known as “Blue – Light gangs” that undergo cargo theft by involving corrupt law enforcement officers. At least two such cases were reported in the Gauteng province last year that are still being investigated.

Thefts in the country are increasing rapidly and can impose a severe threat to the country’s economy. Despite creating a particular investigating unit to handle corruption investigations in the country, there still exists a struggle to resolve such issues. It has become imperative for transportation and logistics companies to introduce management control systems in logistics,  adopt digital solutions to protect their assets, and ensure the smooth transit of goods. 

Some of the ways the transportation and logistic companies can prevent or secure their goods are as follows.

Mitigation measures

  • The companies must be aware of the routes prone to cargo thefts; for example, some of the risky highways in South Africa that witness massive cargo theft in the country.
  • Since there are many cases reported of corrupt officers in the supply chain management, it has become imperative for the company to undergo diligent screening of the employees and have a proper background check while hiring new employees.
  • They must use digital technology to protect their goods from getting looted with the help of GPS systems embedded in the cargo and trucks to record accurate time tracking of the vehicle and easily find the location of the lost goods if stolen.
  • With the help of fuel management systems, companies can prevent the loss or theft of fuel.
  • With the help of the tyre management system, companies can be protected from getting fooled by drivers. This system would analyze and record the life cycle of the tyre and helps to maintain records regarding the installation of new tires.
  • There also are environmental monitoring devices to ensure the climatic and environmental condition of the goods when in transit or when in the warehouse and have detectors to record the door movement of the trailer.
  • Automation of the warehouse would help reduce the manual workforce at the location as well as helps you monitor your goods 24/7, hence protecting these stored goods.

The transportation and logistics companies in the African region must adopt these digital measures to protect their assets, trucks and drivers, and their brand image by safely delivering the cargo to their destination.

Contributed by Nivedita, PGP student at IIMK and summer intern at


The Author brings over 30 years of experience in building digital automation and transformation solutions for the supply chain logistics and warehousing industries.

    Comments are closed.