Protecting assets in transit

September 2016 Editor's Choice, Transport (Industry), Conferences & Events

In late July, the Transported Asset Protection Association (TAPA) held its annual South African conference at Emperor’s Palace, a stone’s throw from the domestic transportation hub that is Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo International Airport.

Andre du Venage.
Andre du Venage.

Kicking off proceedings was a formal welcome by TAPA SA’s chairman, Andre du Venage, and an introduction to the association by Massimo Carelle, risk manager at Ingram Micro. This was followed by a full day’s programme that included presentations by a line-up of specialist speakers covering a variety of industry-relevant topics.

The dual threat of crime and public violence

Dr Johan Burger, senior researcher at the Institute of Security Studies (ISS), began by explaining the role of the ISS as an African non-profit organisation with a mandate that comprises research, policy advice and capacity building. His talk focused on the threat posed to South Africa by crime and public violence, and the challenges faced by crime fighting agencies.

When it comes to public order incidents, he showed figures that illustrate a general upward trend in peaceful incidents (crowd related assemblies, gatherings and meetings) over the last 10 years. As would be expected, these figures trend higher around the times of elections, but overall show a 58% increase between 2004/5 and 2014/15. However, crowd related actions resulting in violence painted a more stark picture, having risen 247% over the same period.

On the crime front, Burger showed that, although the murder rate (cases of reported murder per 100 000 citizens) decreased by 55% over the first 18 years of the country’s new democracy, it has risen by 9% over the last three years. He went on to explain that crime statistics, or more specifically their interpretation, have at times been misleadingly represented by provincial and state government representatives, making it difficult for the public to have a clear understanding of the true situation.

Truck hijackings have experienced a sharp rise of 56% over recent years, with a total of 1279 reported in 2014/15 versus 821 in 2011/12. The vast majority of these continue to be in Gauteng, which accounted for 804 of the 1279 total in 2014/15. Armed robberies and burglaries at shopping centres across the country have increased even more dramatically, with a 194,5% rise in the number of incidents over the same period (807 versus 274) and an even larger increase of 384% in total financial losses (R99,43 million versus R20,54 million).

While Dr Burger’s assessment of SA’s crime situation was at times bleak, he did express optimism that the more pro-active management structures that are being put in place within the SAPS will bear fruit in the coming years. Himself a former SAPS assistant commissioner for nine years, he also praised the many hard-working and dedicated members of the police force who do much good work on the ground level.

Organised crime thrives under corruption

Next to speak was Dr Seswantsho Godfrey Lebeya, a retired Lieutenant General who served for more than 32 years in the SAPS, and an advocate of the High Court of South Africa. He began with an anecdote about his personal experience of being confronted with corruption during his time in the police, and how this strengthened his resolve to tackle the issue head-on. Among the many roles fulfilled over the course of his career, his duties included work at the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI, better known as the Hawks), during which time as a divisional commissioner the DPCI produced an unmatched record of 14 793 arrests and 7037 convictions.

With a background in the investigation of organised crime, money laundering, racketeering activities, corruption and other crimes, Lebeya was more than well versed enough to give the audience particularly deep insights into the severity of the corruption problem in South Africa, and spoke at length about the impact it has at a societal level.

He covered in detail the evolution of SA’s anti-corruption measures at the governmental policy level, and concluded with the following poignant summation: “I conclude that corruption is not only presumptuous and infectious; it is so seductive and addictive that its tempting effects must be suppressed by everyone wherever it exhibits its symptoms – otherwise the good men and women who are engaged in its fight might succumb to the overwhelming pressure by the corrupted, which will result in condonation of the scourge and failure of justice.

Global terrorism and the threat to aviation security

Eytan Nevo.
Eytan Nevo.

Eytan Nevo, an international aviation security advisor, focused his presentation on what is unquestionably the biggest threat currently faced in his area of expertise: ISIS, or so-called Islamic State. He highlighted the major differences between ISIS and what was essentially its forebear, Al-Qaeda.

These two terrorist organisations have become household names the world over in recent years, and ISIS’ attacks have struck at the heart of Western society in particular. Although it’s overly simplistic to sum up the extent of the threat it poses in just one paragraph, the following three points made by Nevo stood out:

1.) ISIS emerged out of Al-Qaeda, led by extremists who consider Al-Qaeda’s ideology to be too soft and cuddly.

2.) ISIS has achieved its level of notoriety despite only having existed for a little over three years.

3.) The primary objective of ISIS is to convert as many people in the world as possible to Islam (at gunpoint if necessary) and murder everybody else – literally everybody else.

The presentation went on to show photographs of explosive devices made by ISIS and hidden in everyday items such as laptop computers. The compactness of these devices illustrated the difficulties faced by airport security in detecting them, as even high-resolution X-rays of an original computer side-by-side with one containing a bomb showed virtually no difference. A video provided a chilling display of the potentially devastating damage even such a small explosive is capable of doing to an aircraft.

In the context of rumours a few months back that South Africa was in danger of an imminent ISIS attack, a member of the audience asked Nevo what his verdict was on the potential for such an act of terrorism on South African soil. To paraphrase his reply: 50/50.

The threat and impact of cyber crime

Deloitte’s senior manager for cyber crime and resilience, Roger Truebody, spoke on the threat and impact of cyber crime on current and future business. He started by emphasising the fact that cyber related issues have progressed beyond simply the IT realm, and has become an issue that must be addressed at the board level of companies’ management. In this day of the proliferation on the Internet of Things (IoT), the phrase ‘cyber’ now covers anything and everything with an IP address, and solutions to combating and preventing cyber crime need to evolve to become more holistic.

As he pointed out, businesses are increasingly embracing the benefits of digitisation, but the complexity and costs associated with implementing strategies against cyber crime are often considered overly onerous at management level. He stressed that the time has come for the mindset to shift by looking beyond the cost of implementing a cyber security policy, and instead considering the much higher financial risk to a company of having its information systems compromised.

The only way to achieve holistic strategies regarding cyber crime, Truebody believes, is for the industry to work towards establishing training and qualification structures that allow security managers, IT, board members and all other relevant parties to speak the same language.

Crime scene management

Dave Dodge, chairman of the South African Institute of Security (SAIS), kicked off his presentation by establishing his credentials as a veteran of Scotland Yard, the world famous force that polices the streets of London. He regaled the audience with some anecdotes of his personal experience of crime scenes, before playing CCTV footage showing how not to manage a crime scene in the wake of one particular jewellery store robbery in Cape Town.

This example served as an object lesson that security and transport companies need to exercise their own due diligence in protecting the integrity of crime scenes involving their assets, and not simply rely on the police to do so. Dodge did, however, reassure that the South African Police Service has world-class forensic tools, techniques and personnel at its disposal when it comes to investigating major crimes.

Cargo risk management

Last to present was risk management consultant Nico Snyman, who touched on the importance of implementing a structured, strategic, tactical and operational approach to cargo risk management, followed by a review of his company, Crest Advisory.

Sponsor presentations

Sponsors of the TAPA Conference 2016 included companies offering an assortment of products and services for the protection of transported assets. In addition to exhibition stands outside the conference hall, manned by professional staff to greet delegates during the lunch and coffee breaks, each sponsor gave a short presentation highlighting their offering, interspersed amongst the main speakers.

The full list of sponsors was AFIS, Securitas, Tecsec, Pulsit, PinnSec, Seguratainer and Xtracktme.

In closing

In giving his assessment of this year’s TAPA Conference, Du Venage expressed his satisfaction with the quality and relevance of the presentations, and his enthusiasm over the number of attendees, which was up significantly over last year’s event. He also expressed his thanks to the sponsors, and is optimistic that the annual conference will continue to grow in stature in the years to come.


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