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Land Transport Security Problems Affect the Competitiveness of the Region's Countries

2 July 2013|News

Crimes and thefts involving freight are commonplace on the roads and railways of Latin America. Mexico and Brazil are among the riskiest countries in the world in terms of incidents reported to the authorities.


Photo of a highway with trucks and policemen
Photo: John Jairo Bonilla/EFE

Crimes and thefts involving freight on the terrestrial routes in Latin America are not only a security problem that causes economic losses to owners, but they also affect the rest of the logistical chain and have consequences for the national competitiveness of countries, according to a recent ECLAC study.

The report Security of the terrestrial logistical chain in Latin America (in Spanish only), produced by the expert from the ECLAC Natural Resources and Infrastructure Division Gabriel Pérez Salas, states that Latin America has two of the most dangerous countries in the world in terms of terrestrial chains: Mexico and Brazil. However, this is a phenomenon in all of the region's countries, and it is therefore urgent to implement effective and coordinated regional measures to tackle the problem.

In Latin America, the points most vulnerable to robberies are freight terminals, areas near ports, logistics transfer infrastructures and freight consolidation zones. Crimes are mainly concentrated on road cargo transport, although railway attacks are also common. In both cases, despite what is usually thought, crimes occur mostly in urban areas at weekends and during the daytime.

Although it is difficult to estimate the real magnitude of economic losses due to merchandise stolen in land transit, some authors estimate annual global losses of USD$ 30 billion. However, many developing countries do not even have official records on the phenomenon.

According to the ECLAC document, the lack of regular and comparable sectoral statistics on such crimes has hidden or underestimated their impact. As a result, there have not been enough public policies to tackle the problem in an effective and sustainable way. Private solutions such as armed escorts or self-defence by transporters have not only been ineffective, but have also increased the costs and the feeling of insecurity among the population.

The lack of security in logistics chains also affects the image of the country, reduces tax receipts and discourages enterprise and private investment (which in turn pushes up the prices of goods consumed by the national population).  All of these factors reduce economic growth and social development.

The document also states that criminal gangs do not recognize borders and constantly move their operations in search of more vulnerable areas, which makes it vital for countries to coordinate response actions to tackle this scourge threatening the region's competitiveness and hampering the coordination of intraregional logistics chains.

The report describes best business practices and calls for policy changes to deal with the phenomenon effectively without impacting regional competitiveness.

The document offers a series of recommendations, including: generating knowledge of the problem, implementing regionally coordinated legal changes, investing in infrastructure and promoting facilitation, establishing regional insurance and promoting collaboration to achieve a safer and more competitive logistics chain for everyone.

The document concludes that the only way of reducing risks in the logistics chain without affecting economic competitiveness is to adopt a systemic comprehensive security approach, rather than one-sided solutions. It is therefore vital for States to provide the necessary security conditions to ensure an efficient and effective flow of goods and information, so that companies can take advantage of the competitive advantages resulting from minimum inventories, be actively involved in value chains and  attract more investment.