Beware a Potential Crimewave When Pandemic is Over Says Freight Transport Insurer

UK - EUROPE - The publication of the latest European Migrant Smuggling Centre (EMSC) report from Europol, which forensically dissects the modes and methods used throughout 2019 to transport people illegally across international borders, makes interesting, if sobering, reading. The report, which can be downloaded In full HERE, highlights the changing ways migrants are being transported, with special mention of the English Channel and the refining of ways to beat the ever alert Border Forces. The horrific deaths when 39 bodies were discovered in a trailer in Essex last October brought home the appaling morality of a trade which treats humans as merely cargo.

Despite the high publicity given to migrants using small boats to try and gain entry to the UK, the principal method of smuggling people is in road vehicles, such as that found in Grays, either as part of a planned criminal operation, or by individuals taking the chance to stow away in a passing truck. With drivers and companies being held personally responsible for these last offences obviously it behoves them to take every possible precaution. However, as anyone who has worked at the road haulage industry coal face will tell you, maintaining 100% security on a vehicle, particularly one with a tilt cord which can be cut and invisibly resealed, is never a totally secure possibility.

The increasing trend for this type of criminal operation has worried the insurance industry, and claims against them by clients whose drivers have been innocently caught up in such scams are likely to fail, souring the relationship. This week, having studied the EMSC report, the TT Club pointed out that criminal organisations know the simplest way to move people across international borders is to hide them in legitimate freight transport. The TT Club emphasises that all stakeholders who regularly undertake cross border freight movements must be vigilant.

Close consideration should be given to the preventative guidance that governmental authorities produce. TT Club itself has collaborated with leading global provider of supply chain intelligence; BSI Supply Chain Services and Solutions to publish a StopLoss briefing entitled 'Clandestine Migration'. That report places great emphasis on the sealing of vehicles, which as we have pointed out sounds great to those who have only ever sealed envelopes, the important weakness in the sealing of trailers is the design of the vehicle, something rarely considered until a breach is discovered and a driver is standing restrained by security staff and scratching his or her head as to how the bodies got into the vehicle.

What the TT Club points out are the best practice haulage firms can put in place to deter potential stowaways, training drivers properly in matters of security, installing technology where possible and follow up monitoring to ensure all recommended measures are in place and being adhered to. TT Club's Managing Director, Loss Prevention Mike Yarwood observed: "Our first consideration of course must be with the well-being of the migrants themselves, who are often victims of criminal activities and whose lives are often at risk.

In terms of the liabilities that transport operators are exposed to, however, TT Club is warning of potential physical damage to cargoes, additional freight costs, vehicle and equipment detention, fines, penalties and reputational damage. "[The current pandemic] might be a particular danger as regards potential movement into the UK. Although cross-border freight services are still running during the Covid lockdown and therefore providing opportunities to migrants, it is likely that there are large numbers of people currently unable to move, who may want to cross to the UK and will attempt to as the restrictions on movement are lifted at first gradually and then fully.

"Constant vigilance and awareness are the only ways to combat stowaways in these types of transport. Vehicles should be checked regularly en route to ensure that they have not been entered, particularly after stops when left unattended. Whilst owners, operators or drivers may contract with third parties to conduct the required checks on their behalf, they are likely to remain liable to any penalty and/or loss incurred.

Consequently, due diligence in the selection of such contractors is critical."

If you are running import operations by container or trailer, and in case you didn't follow that last, it's the insurance company's way of telling you exactly where the buck is going to be stopping if you do not at least mitigate every opportunity to prevent such offences, and probably even if you do.

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