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Recently, I decided to leave my MD desk and get on the road and engage with normal operations as I often do. One of my trucks was underway to a delivery and I followed on the freeway. This is the story of that chance encounter.
Barely leaving the collection point we identify a ‘scout vehicle’ of the ‘enemy’ following one kilometer behind our truck on the freeway. At first the vehicle seemed to be just another vehicle on the freeway, but having tinted windows and two occupants sitting down low and following our vehicle constantly from the same distance, and other manoeuvres we observed made it suspicious, but only to the trained and experienced eye.
A few kilometers later the vehicle again makes manoeuvres suspect to the trained eye and we realise our truck was about to be hijacked.
I realised that staying calm is now my best companion and the contingency plan for such an event is now going to be tested to the extreme, but we still hope that it is not going to happen. Five kilometers later the truck is surrounded by seven to nine vehicles and the scout vehicle stays some 200 meters behind the attack point and does not form part of the attacking teams. The attacking vehicles each has at least two armed attackers inside and two vehicles look and sound very close to Metro Police vehicles – also having two-way radios on board.
Both our drivers are swiftly removed at gunpoint from the truck into a luxury 4×4 and two new drivers take charge speeding away with our now hijacked truck. My mind is racing almost out of control, but I force myself to stay as calm as possible.
While this is happening, armed reaction teams and air support are activated and around 20 km later with all reaction teams closing in the hijackers activate signal jamming and the truck comes to a standstill.
All the while I was following the truck and also the hijackers in their vehicles. Unfortunately, as we were hoping to actually arrest some of these criminals, after struggling for a few minutes to tow the truck away, they leave the truck behind and we have a full recovery with a damaged cabin and no lives lost.
The gang held our drivers prisoner for some time, asking them some questions, boast about their capabilities and other hijackings they successfully conducted in the past. They also make it very clear they will come back for our truck at a later opportunity and then eventually let them go.
The same type scenario plays out three weeks later as our truck is hijacked with a much larger show of force and with many shots fired from semi-automatic guns and some innocent motorists who were perceived to be armed escorts shot at. I am very close to the action again this time and shots go past my vehicle at very close range.
The truck is taken again and our hijacking contingency plan kicks in and after about 30 minutes the truck is recovered and some suspects arrested with AK47s and a vehicle used to participate in the hijacking. Most of the gang, however, get away to plan their next attack.
After the shock, chaos, unbelief, anger and re-planning, I was confronted with the questions:
What have we learned from these first-hand hijacking experiences?
Is my thinking now different on risk management procedures?
What would we do differently now and why?
The attack will happen, accept this fact. If your cargo is on order it will be attacked. It’s how you deal with it after the attack that counts.
The first to be attacked will always be the armed escort teams because this will minimize the threat to the hijackers.
The attackers outnumber the security measures easily and it is mostly a non-contest.
Technology and devices are a definite aid and contribute greatly to managing the attack.
The contingency plan is never a precise plan as the situation is different from one attack to the next.
Preparing for an attack is important, but you will never have an attack taking place exactly as you anticipated it. The best way to describe it is, you do not have the advantage during an attack and it is a war situation. The hijackers do not ask for the cargo they often shoot first and then only are you aware of their presence (unless you have trained staff and experienced observers identifying the enemy during operations).
Staff do notice suspect vehicles, but mostly they would feel they are over-exaggerating by reporting this.
Staff do see suspect behavior of people around the loading situation, but also feel that reporting this is over-exaggerating.
No training can ever replace first-hand hijacking situations and, should you be alive after the attack, then you know to look out for suspicious people and vehicles. Our brains are just tuned that way. We rather ignore a situation if our life has never been in danger.
After the attacks, my teams averted two hijacking attempts by early identification of scout vehicles, which they previously would have ignored.
The syndicates use scouts on foot close to the loading zones – such as OR Tambo International Airport Cargo Sectors – but also scout vehicles to identify the security details around the cargo move.
Clients’ staff are not immune to getting involved with syndicates stealing or hijacking cargo.
Debriefing of staff after attacks helped immeasurably to change risk planning around cargo movement.
Armed escort vehicles are not to follow trucks in an open fashion as this is an advertisement to syndicates and means nothing if the poor guys are shot and killed. Armed escorts are now trained to blend into the environment and communicate effectively in a way that ensures safety and effective security management should an attack take place. This gives us a psychological advantage over the hijackers as they would not know where to find the security detail, nor what to expect.
This way of using armed escorts is the future and must be combined with experience, on the job training and ongoing management as each cargo movement situation can differ based on traffic congestion, insider collusion, type of vehicle used to transport the load, route and many other factors. There is no handbook to escort properly, but there are experienced individuals and we all must use common sense. An escort can no longer be a trailer behind the truck.
Once the truck is hijacked, the hijackers get extremely nervous and can fight among each other. They are now the target.
Not all SAPS members are corrupt as the general feeling might often be. There are very good police officers out there wanting to catch and investigate the syndicates.
No amount of training prepares you for the specifics of a hijacking attack. Training can teach you how to react, stay focused and deal with matters inside of your control. Matters outside of your control means you are powerless to those, but focusing on those you can control is the key to an effective risk management protocol for cargo hijackings. We are not helpless in these attacks.
I trust this article may in some way help the companies and individuals out there putting their lives on the line so that you and I can use a cellphone, type emails on our laptops and eat that nice steak.
For more information, contact us today.
Sitting in your office doing what you are doing as a C-suite gate-keeper or other senior management role, you proceed with your to-do things daily, as you should. You are doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing and what you are paid for. Or are you?
Talking about risk we understand that threats to our work environment come in different guises such as physical attacks to the business that include robbery or business break-ins or theft. Other threats present themselves in the form of cyber-attacks and IP theft (industrial espionage).
Considering logistics and warehousing operations, normally these threats are viewed from an outside-in perspective and most security is concentrated on keeping outsiders outside and away from goods manufactured or goods stored/ kept in warehouses. The security focus typically involves physical measures that include a good perimeter, security protection, armed response, access controls, visitors’ policy, vehicle tracking and monitoring, staff controls and standard operating procedures. This should be standard practise and the bare minimum for operations.
But when we talk insider threat, the question arises as to what do we do to keep the insider threat at bay. Insider refers to the staff member (permanent or contract) colluding in some way with outsiders to steal from the operation, normally in bulk, to effect a substantial loss. Insiders can also collude with other insiders to engage in criminal acts to hurt the company in different ways.
More questions that arise include:
The starting point to answer these operational questions lies with policies and procedures. An SOP on each business activity is essential not just for ensuring operations are taking place according to the sales plan, but also to the security risk plan. Does your company have a security risk plan? If not you need to start there and get staff aware that your business will defend against insider attack.
Having witnessed truck hijackings and bulk cargo theft first hand over many years, it came to mind that the attack will happen due to the fact that the system will be tested by criminals in their eagerness and greed to get their hands on other peoples’ property because it is an easy way to earn a living. The fact that it is not an honest living is of no consideration to most thieves.
What makes the difference in being repeatedly attacked is the response to the attack. If the response is weak, the attacks will continue. If the response is good and the attackers are apprehended or forced to leave the hijacked truck next to the road due to security counter-measures, then the attacks will dissipate.
The same principle applies to other operations in that if the attackers understand that once they attack, they themselves will become the target (of the security response) then they will think twice before trying that again. We need to act on insiders in a concise and effective way in order to create uncertainty and fear in the mind of the next person planning an attack.
Insiders expose themselves by way of red flags popping up in operations that may start with absenteeism, right through to negligence or more open incidents of theft.
Insider threat manifests when company operations flow such that it opens doors to opportunity for crimes or outsiders are hired to infiltrate the organisation and go unnoticed. This article does not go into the motivations insiders have to commit theft, but often opportunity arrives by accident due to grey areas in the business operations.
It takes a concerted security risk management effort to identify and expose criminal insiders. The easier option would be to deter or deflect such opportunists and criminals from the operation by closing operational gaps and opportunities for crime. Each business must consider its own unique environment that includes product, staff make-up, policies and procedures.
The insider threat will always remain so the best approach is to identify the operational gaps that create opportunity, hire knowledgeable security staff and a strong security leader (with influence). The CEO/COO/MD should be the person the security leader reports to in most operations. The security manager needs to champion the security process and show progress and results, and this includes an active programme to also focus inside to the internal risks.
For more information, contact Andre Du Venage, Secure Logistics, +27 11 391 6268, firstname.lastname@example.org
We wish to thank you all for honoring our invitation and being a part of our workshop to validate the Assets In Transit research report. We hope that you found the workshop informative and worthwhile. From our side, found the workshop instructive and enriching. Our overarching objective was to gain more insights into this specialized field of the private security industry. This objective was achieved and we truly appreciated the time we spent together while “picking your brain”.
We are confident that your contributions from the workshop will enhance the quality of the research report and we wish to thank you for being a part of that process. Your passion for a truly professional industry was quite evident. You were a great group and your enthusiasm and positive spirit helped make our time together productive.
Kindly send any additional comments (track changed) you think will add value to the report to Margaret.GICHANGA@psira.co.za by Tuesday the 14th of November. We feel this will be sufficient time as opposed to a week as initially stated.
It is anticipated that a follow-up session is held in the early February 2018 in order to engage in a dialogue that will inform the proposed policy. The confirmed date will be communicated to you in advance.
Thank you for your comments on the evaluation sheet and we assure you that each suggestion will be given consideration so that future workshops will be even more of a success.
We wish you the best in your endeavors. If we can help in any way, or if you have any questions, please feel free to contact us. Again, thank you for being part of the workshop, which in our view was a resounding success.
Nthabiseng PHAKA | Admin & Secretariat Support
RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT
Covert escort vehicles move in unison with a customer’s valuable cargo.
Extremely valuable cargo is generally tracked using tracking tags which are placed on or in the cargo as well as a transmitter that is fitted to the vehicle carrying the cargo. This provides fleet owners and controllers with the ability to determine the location of the vehicle and cargo. However, in the event of theft or hijacking, the response is reactive rather than proactive. While some tracking companies claim recovery success rates of up to 95%, prevention is always better than cure.
One of the major obstacles encountered by fleet owners when goods are in transit, is the accelerated use of signal jamming devices. By jamming communication signals, criminals prevent the vehicle’s occupants from contacting fleet controllers and security companies, thereby placing the vehicle, its cargo and its occupants at risk, since they are basically incommunicado. Signal jamming devices render the total communication and vehicle tracking network of a company useless during activation. Proactive interception Andre Du Venage, MD of Secure Logistics, says that the company deploys a number of covert escort vehicles which move in unison with a customer’s vehicle carrying valuable cargo. Both the cargo vehicle and the escort
Covert escort vehicles move in unison with a customer’s valuable cargo. vehicle are fitted with signal jamming detection and prevention equipment to ensure that any attempts to jam communication signals are detected and intercepted proactively and timeously. Once signal jamming equipment has been detected, the Secure Logistics team enters a high alert phase and contingency measures are activated. Since both vehicles utilise the same equipment, the escort vehicle does not need to have the cargo vehicle in its sights. This provides the company with the element
This provides the company with the element of surprise, since neither the cargo drivers nor the criminals are aware of the presence of the escort vehicle and attacks on the escort vehicle are generally eliminated. Insider job A staggering 95% of hijackings and cargo theft are facilitated through insider information. The challenge says Du Venage is that there are often many parties involved in the clearing and forwarding process and to finally move the cargo to its destination and therefore the information related to the cargo is available to a number of people. How the team reacts in the event of a potential or actual hijacking is therefore critical. A covert escort service addresses the concerns that companies have in terms of signal jamming by nullifying its effect to a large extent. Early detection provides fleet owners and controllers with the upper hand and forms part of a chain of actions that result in minimal risk to the cargo as well as the transport vehicle’s occupants.