From 6 – 7 October, the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport (DG MOVE) organised a conference on incident reporting in land transport.
The conference, which took place in Brussels, was designed to report on the results of four studies which were carried out in the first half of 2015. These studies focused respectively on road and rail cargo theft, metal theft and international graffiti.
UIC was represented by Jacques Colliard, Marie Hélène Bonneau, Sandra Gehenot and José Pires.
Sandra Géhénot, in her capacity as Project Manager for the Rail Cargo Theft topic, was the rapporteur for that study.
Ms Susanne Kufeld, Deutsche Bahn, Head of DB Situation Centre and Global Crisis Management Corporate Security – Chair of the UIC Metal Theft Working Group.
Rail Cargo Theft: assumptions – findings – recommendations
Under the principle of free circulation of people and goods, maintaining levels of security is a constant and complex activity on European territory. Although cargo theft appears to be primarily a major problem in the road transport domain, its impact and scope in rail freight operation had to be reviewed.
With the targets set by the Commission in the last White Paper (i.e. 30% of the road traffic over 300 km to be shifted to more sustainable transport modes by 2030 and up to 50% by 2050), the question was raised whether a shift of criminality towards rail could be expected. This is the reason why the Commission wished to gather intelligence in order to have a more informed view of the extent of this phenomenon across all market segments of rail freight in order to address it adequately.
The UIC Freight and Security Departments were therefore mandated to run three stakeholder workshops between January and June 2015 to provide DG Move with valuable first-hand experience and feedback on the current market situation. The remit was to:
Develop a common understanding of rail cargo theft and vandalism
Propose a segmentation of the various incidents
Propose an inventory of available data and carry out a gap analysis (what data is available/what is missing)
Report on the geographical coverage of the various occurrences
Assess the cost impact of rail cargo theft including operational costs
Propose recommendations in line with stakeholders’ needs.
The work accomplished was the fruit of a close collaboration of all actors of the rail transport chain and included experts from the forwarding industry (Clecat), intermodal operators (UIRR, CFLMM, RCA), railways (DB, RCA, SNCF, SBB, CFL, UIC Freight Department), rail security representative from railways (UIC Security Division, COLPOFER, CER), Rail legal representatives (CIT) and combined transport terminals (AGORA, CFL, Combinant).
From the beginning of the discussions, participants expressed the need for the concept of “tampering” to be included in the debate and therefore wanted to rename the issue “rail cargo crime”. The argument was to say that, from a customer’s viewpoint, the consequences of tampering with goods are similar to a theft insofar as the goods are to be written off as they can no longer be used. In addition, tampering may also mean delays to rail transport. These delays may also have serious consequences on the goods in the event of perishables such as foodstuffs for instance. The definition was therefore developed to reflect all aspects specific to rail transport operation.
Throughout the workshops, participants reiterated the low rate of occurrence of rail cargo crime. Discussions showed that data is available at company level albeit if not recorded in exactly the same way by all companies. However, in view of the numerous corrective measures implemented (be they infrastructure investments in surveillance material, operational changes, implementation of quality processes etc.) the frequency and cost implications of the current cargo crime represent a very low percentage of the overall volume of goods transported.
Lively discussions took place when sharing information between public sector and private sector was evoked and when the possibility of setting up a common incident data base at EU level was raised.
It was acknowledged that such a database could provide statistics to support policy makers, to provide a benchmark and to help conduct risk assessments, which could provide the railway sector with information on where to implement corrective security measures. However, a series of open questions was raised, which could put obstacles in the way of developing an EU-wide database ranging from legal aspects to organisational ones.
The question of cost was also raised. The point was made that in a context where the rail freight industry has to face many costly challenges (ERTMS implementation, retrofitting of wagons, implementation of rail freight corridors etc.), investments to feed an EU database were not a priority especially as occurrences of rail cargo crime are low in proportion to the overall volume of goods transported.
The sector on the other hand stressed the need for support to further explore new technologies in the context of security prevention: intelligent equipment like smart seals…, design of new wagon/container with integrated security, apps for the reporting.
Within this scope it is agreed that Metal Theft it is a multi-sector and a global problem being a major problem in the transportation domain, in particular for the rail sector.
There are currently for the rail sector no “reliable statistics”, as there isn’t a common way of recording incidents throughout the EU, neither measuring the economic impact (value of theft; cost of disrupting infrastructure, cost of police and enforcement intervention) nor the financial, or even the reputation cost for the European Railway Network. Thus having a “picture” of the problem became essential in order to form a perception of the scale of the problem, and act accordingly. The workshops focused on:
- Defining what (a) metal theft incident(s) is/are, if there is a need to categorise the different incidents and along which criteria
- Describing the different sorts of existing incidents ( along which criteria; such as modus operandi, location, length of cable, etc) initially on the basis of a basic topology of incidents but setting relevant criteria to allow the development if a more comprehensive form of typology
- Indicating what information should be collected for each type of incident
- Developing the basic criteria for recording incidents
Within the running of the workshops together with many experts from other rail sector organisations (EIM, CER, COLPOFER), rail infrastructure managers, rail operators, law enforcement authorities, metal scrap and recycling sector organisations and taking all the previous discussions on the LANDSEC meetings as well the work done at Pol-Primett and UIC Metal Theft WG, it became clear that a single method of recording incidents would not be enough to give a correct picture of what metal theft means to EU railways. A comprehensive approach needs to be developed, taking in to account the preventive and corrective current and near future actions taken by the rail sector to mitigate the impacts of metal theft. These will also among other initiatives develop specific research activities (current and future research projects), towards supporting innovative solutions to tackle metal theft.
It was also important to comprehend the current different methodologies used by the rail operating community. This provided a clear view of the use of different approaches, tools and even purposes. Again, as in many other cases, but also here, one size does not fit all. Nevertheless, there are common points of interest that can provide a “basic focus points” for recording metal theft incidents across the rail sector without having to “change” the current modus operandi:
- Focus on operational aspects rather than investigations and crimes
- Exclusion of personal information
- Information on geo-localisation needed to further analyse and understand the threat with mapping software
- Additional descriptions such as pictures and documents can be included in the event
The use of such an approach, together with studying, analysing and understanding the current state-of-the-art in relation to existing ways of collecting, recording and managing metal theft incidents by developing a common metal theft definition within the railway framework, setting the basis for a metal theft incidents collection basic criterion; will provide the basis and means to build grounds to the next steps towards a wider and relevant EU incidents reporting system.
Still, the main concerns of the railway operating community are to avoid duplicating work and having to report on an incident several times for different databases. Moreover in the case of a European database, the framework for collecting and disseminating the content of the database would need to be clearly defined.
Finally, the results of the metal theft workshops delivered a common “metal theft definition” within the railway framework, as well as a “Metal Theft incidents collection basic criterion”. Nevertheless with regard to the data collection, rules, procedures and processes there is still the need for further discussion.
This requires an in-depth analyse performed by a coordinated action between all the actors in defining what type of database (proactive or reactive), indicators, trends, data policy and degree of information would be advisable to be recorded in the interest of the EU members.
Closing the conference Mr Robert Missen, Head of Unit for Land and Maritime Security, DG Mobility and Transport, addressed the audience reflecting on the fact that the reason that these conferences are still happening is due to the fact that, in an ideal world we would have to meet in this way to discuss crime; criminality will always exist; in an ideal world the scale of such problems wouldn’t be so much that we would all have to come to Brussels to discuss them; but there we are. Either because 200€ of cooper or 2M€ in pharmaceuticals have been stolen, the fact is we have problems!
Cargo theft, Graffiti and metal theft look like unrelated topics but in the course of the conference there seems to be many common themes. The theft of products cannot be seen as only a problem of its costs but also a reputation problem. The truth is that there is no reliable scale of the problem.
It is clear that what’s needed to gain that awareness is a form of a database, as it was demonstrated here by some operators that by using the findings of their databases, could “explain” the problems to the police so that they could act in accordance with the problem. The EU policy makers’ need the same approach if from them is expected some form EU policy solutions.
We do nevertheless reflect on topics that need to be avoided when developing such processes; data protection, ethics, rules and procedures, training of staff on reporting methods, data validation to ensure quality, monitoring and evaluation, usability, etc.
DG MOVE will have to build on all the knowledge from the two days of the conference together with the results of the workshops, continuing to listen to the transport sector, and to digest all the results, reporting to the LANDSEC meeting of 4 November 2015, maybe proposing to run some pilot project and additional support studies (e.g. legal frame works, direct-indirect cost analytics). DG MOVE will continue to maintain dialogue with the sector to better understand and use the existing data available, definably avoiding having duplication of work.
The meeting concluded by thanking all those who had contributed to the discussions, and saying that DG MOVE would soon report back with some proposals to go further in such important work.