Managing the complexity of transportation in fragile environments


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Over the past three years, geopolitics, weather events, inflation and the pandemic have amplified challenges associated with global supply chains, reports GardaWorld.

Transportation systems, from national infrastructure in the form of road and rail routes, international border crossing points and vehicle operations, are a source of significant vulnerability for any operations. Think of the drivers alone – their comfort, safety, working conditions, health and personal integrity, if not properly managed, could cause overwhelming delays, destruction or theft of goods and assets.

Now, incorporate the additional complications of a fragile environment where the maintenance of the national infrastructure – so critical for business efficiency – is so often not considered a top priority for governments facing growing socioeconomic disharmony and you face a perfect storm.

Issues of safety and security have preoccupied logistics planners and managers for many years, but it is only fairly recently that physical security has become an overriding issue. With the growing risks facing industry today, most notably, the fragmentation of supply chains and the socioeconomic disparities increasingly exacerbated by the global pandemic and the looming recession, comprehensive security throughout the industry supply chain is now a requirement in order to deliver profitability and efficiency.

Operations spread across large geographical areas, with long, cross-border routes-to-market require a coordinated real time, line of sight, purposeful approach to effectively identify and manage the risk at every given point of the supply chain. Insufficient national infrastructure directly increases the risk profile of the supply chain in complex markets, making road transportation often the only viable option to get the product to the market. 

Road transfers come with risks for all parties involved in the movement of cargo due to the vast transport distances, cross border challenges, the value of commodities, black markets, syndication, road traffic accidents, extortion, hijacking and corruption. With the fluctuations in commodity pricing, share prices, foreign currency exchange and inflation over the last few years, many businesses have been forced into care and maintenance status, so decreasing export requirements and increasing the value of each cargo truck load which becomes more attractive to criminal elements.

Because of the vast amount of cargo and material being transported by road across the continent, security control requires robust procedures that are strictly adhered to, monitoring of goods in transit and storage, detailed and precise information and documentation on goods and the parties involved in shipping and transport and integrated risk management systems to focus in on high risk transport, operators and routes. A major requirement for all transport logistics is to have line of site of their cargo at all times and, particularly over large geographical areas, requires a coordinated effort which is based on tracking, emergency response, footprint and 24/7 control rooms monitoring activities and responding to client needs. Critical to this is to ensure there is a seamless transition of services as the cargo travels cross border to and from its port hub.

As supply chains continue to fragment globally, the clear benefits of outsourcing transportation risk management requirements to an experienced regional operator with the required security and risk management expertise become exponential. And, not just from an economies of scale perspective, but from an operational efficiency and supply chain integrity standpoint too.

Such operations will have tested and rehearsed relevant Standard Operation Procedures and the mechanism for providing real time, ground truth intelligence. All of this capability enables operators to carry out informed route and schedule planning as well as providing real time tracking and monitoring to facilitate immediate decision making in the event of an incident or emergency. 

Due to the risks associated with security escorts, such partners hold a duty of care to the client and their own business in terms of liability. Liability for cargo loss remains the responsibility of the transporters, who are mandated to have insurance coverage; with the security escorts’ role and function purely to provide coordination and communication along the route from the collection point to the delivery point offers no real opportunity for an insurer to consider a premium reduction.

However, with an integrated solution approach, which includes, but is not limited to, providing secure convoy escorts armed with communications, tracking and monitoring equipment, providing staffing solutions in the form of drivers, training of personnel, integrating a full fleet and driver management solution, technology such as digital locks, emergency response, a transporter can attract lower premiums for their insurance cover because most risks are substantially being mitigated. 

The impact of transportation on the environment is another important element of risk every organisation shouldn’t fail to consider. The transport sector, including all modes, accounts for about 22% of global CO2 emissions (The Geography of Transport Systems, 5th Edition, Jean-Paul Rodrigue, 2020). While the contribution to this impact is lower in fragile environments than in more developed nations, the impact of climate change is more brutally delivered in regions with fewer resources that are already stretched thin.

Any comprehensive transport security plan must address this risk and demonstrate sustainability measures within its operation and must be held to account to these through not only contract KPIs but also through industry best practices and accrediting standards. The bottom line is that better transport practices, such as fuel-efficient vehicles, that reduce environmental externalities are likely to have positive economic, social and environmental consequences.

Underestimating or undervaluing any element of exposure with regard to transportation in a complex environment results in significant productivity inefficiencies leading to cost increases and a greater risk to drivers, transporters and cargo. Addressing these concerns in one platform not only manages the increasing complexity but provides peace of mind and lower operational costs. 

This article was originally published in the January 2023 edition of International Security Journal. To read your FREE digital edition, click here.

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