Cargo theft in Brazil violent and growing

As the 7th-largest world economy and one that has been growing at break-neck speed, Brazil is becoming a more important market for pharmaceuticals. But getting product delivered in the country can be a very dicey undertaking. Unlike in the U.S., cargo theft in Brazil is almost always a violent crime.

In fact, it is so violent that cargo increasingly is accompanied by armed escorts. Even so, FreightWatch International reports that there have been shootouts, including a Dec. 27 incident in which one guard was killed and another wounded.

Pharmaceuticals thefts were fourth in value in 2011 in Brazil, at $14.4 million, behind electronics at nearly $50 million, food at $21.5 million, and mixed loads from less-than-truckload carriers at $16.5 million. Shippers are losing on average $14.2 million worth of cargo per month, up from an average loss of $13.4 million in 2010.

While efforts by Pharmaceutical Cargo Security Coalition, the FDA and law enforcement in the U.S. have led to a dramatic decrease in pharmaceutical theft in the U.S., the cargo theft situation appears to be getting worse in Brazil. The average theft of pharmaceuticals tracked by FreightWatch in the U.S. in 2011 was $585,000, down 6.5 times from the $3.7 million average loss in 2010. That was the lowest average pharmaceutical loss value since 2006.

FreightWatch did not report annual changes in value by category for Brazil; it said the value of losses in all categories increased 5.7%, to $171 million in 2011, from $162.3 million in 2010.

The vast majority of the cargo thefts occur in the state of San Paulo, the industrial center of the country. It is estimated that more than half of losses are occurring in and around San Paulo. Brazilian cargo thieves, besides being violent, are inventive. They have paid off drivers to give up their loads, set up fake checkpoints pretending to be police and increasingly are targeting traffic from sea ports, FreightWatch says.

- FreightWatch Brazil cargo theft report (reg. req.)