The Energy Crisis’ Impact on Cargo Security
First published: March 2023
It is plausible that if major supermarkets are seen to be benefiting from these increased prices and making record profits – likely if energy prices drive small and medium sized retailers out of business – there could be a reputational risk and possible backlash. Indeed, should the situation deteriorate enough the theft of entire truckloads could be seen by some as morally justifiable, with Robin Hood-style thefts of essentials such as food and fuel being carried out as a form of activism rather than for criminal profit. Increased incidents of fuel thefts have already been reported across France, Germany and the Netherlands since the Ukraine invasion, and much like food the high price of an essential commodity makes it a logical target for thieves the world over. Also like food, there is potential for protests or thefts targeting companies recording high profits. Aside from theft, there is a high potential for activism to disrupt supply chain operations. Demands for better pay have already affected the logistics sector across Europe last year. Spain saw significant trucker strikes in March, port workers in Germany agreed a pay deal in August following a series of industrial actions, and their counterparts in the UK have held strikes in ports such as Felixstowe and Liverpool. More strikes will mean more delays and more bottlenecks in global supply chains.
Last year has also saw the rise of road-blocking tactics by activist groups in the UK and Germany, who have targeted major highways and port facilities. These tactics have so far been used mainly by environmental groups like Letzte Generation and
the various offshoots of Extinction Rebellion, but we could well see them used by groups protesting energy prices or the cost of living and causing significant disruptions in major cities and at facilities.
The knock-on effects of the energy crisis will be far worse in the developing world, with parts of Africa already suffering. The shortage of natural gas has caused the price of fertilisers to triple since mid-2020, and United Nations Assistant-Secretary General Ahunna Eziakonwa said recently that “Disruptions to supply chains in Russia and Ukraine will have pushed imported food prices beyond the reach of many, while the exorbitant price of fertiliser will limit the supply of homegrown foods.” With spiralling inflation in West Africa, protests in Tunisia, and the worst food crisis in 40 years hitting countries in East Africa the prospect of famine is already very real, with potential for civil unrest and increased criminality to significantly complicate the operating environment.
In this climate the logistics industry should take steps to tackle the increased risks by ensuring implementing and complying with some common-sense security procedures. Proper staff vetting to reduce insider risk will be more important given the increased temptation for workers, while driver awareness of the increasing risks and compliance
with company security policies will be more important than ever. Forward-looking intelligence to understand the operating environment and identify social trends and flashpoints should be a standard measure across the industry, while effective cargo visibility and monitoring can help mitigate problems from false pick-up style thefts to route deviation and cargo tampering.