Category Archives: Theft

Piracy Is Still a Risk; Pandemic Hasn’t Helped

August is International Pirate Month – mainly, I suppose, because it’s fun to say “Arrrg-ust” like a Caribbean swashbuckler from the movies.  But many people outside the maritime and insurance industries don’t realize that piracy remains a costly peril in the 21st century – and, like so many other risks, it may have gotten worse during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Global insurer Zurich estimates the annual cost of piracy to the global economy at $12 billion a year and, according to the International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre (IMB PRC), global piracy and armed robbery numbers increased 20 percent in 2020. IMB PRC’s latest annual report lists 195 actual and attempted attacks in 2020, up from 162 in 2019. It attributes the rise to increasing incidents within the Gulf of Guinea in Africa, as well as increased armed robbery activity in the Singapore Strait.

In its Safety and Shipping Review 2021, global insurer Allianz says, the Gulf of Guinea accounted for over 95 percent of crew members kidnapped worldwide in 2020.

“Last year, 130 crew were kidnapped in 22 separate incidents in the region – the highest ever – and the problem has continued in 2021,” the report says. “Vessels are being targeted further away from the shore – over 200 nautical miles from land in some cases.”

The COVID-19 pandemic may have played a role in this rise in pirate activity, as it is tied to underlying social, political, and economic problems.

The economic effects of the pandemic have been especially devastating in parts of the world where piracy tends to be a problem: job losses, negative growth rates, and increased poverty. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), China is the only major economy projected to have a positive growth rate in 2020. The economies of most other countries have shrunk, some by more than 9 percent. Overall, the global economy likely shrank by at least 4 percent in 2020, and the World Bank expects an additional 150 million people have been pushed into poverty.

The economic costs of the pandemic have been particularly challenging for piracy-prone countries, and pre-COVID economic conditions in many of these places almost certainly means slower recoveries. 

“Pirates, criminals, and terrorists exploit poverty and desperation to seek recruits, gain support, and find shelter. To counter these threats, we need to raise awareness and educate people, especially youth, while providing alternative livelihoods and support for local businesses,” said Ghada Waly, Executive Director at the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

Pandemic’s impact on crews

Crew relief is essential to ensuring the safety and health of seafarers. Fatigued crew members make mistakes, and there are serious concerns for the next generation of seafarers. COVID-19 is affecting training, and the sector may struggle to attract new talent due to working conditions.

Reduced availability of well-trained crews could leave vessels more vulnerable as the global economy and international trade rebounds.

In March, the International Chamber of Shipping warned that lack of access to vaccinations for seafarers is placing shipping in a “legal minefield” and could cause disruption to supply chains from cancelled sailings and port delays.

“Vaccinations could soon become a compulsory requirement for work at sea because of reports that some states are insisting all crew be vaccinated as a precondition of entering their ports,” Allianz writes. “However, over half the global maritime workforce is currently sourced from developing nations, which could take many years to vaccinate. In addition, the vaccination of seafarers by shipping companies could also raise liability and insurance issues, including around mandatory vaccination and privacy issues.”

COVID-19’s confounding implications for international piracy were illustrated last month, when more than 80 percent of a South Korean anti-piracy unit serving a mission off the coast of Somalia were found to have tested positive and were airlifted out. South Korea’s defense ministry has said the unit left the country in February unvaccinated. The government has defended the decision, citing lack of vaccine availability at the time.

Learn More:

Insuring marine businesses and cargo

From the Triple-I Blog:

COVID-19 and shipping risk

Valuable metals make catalytic converters an attractive target for thieves

Huge spikes in catalytic converter theft have been reported throughout the nation in recent months. The anti-pollution devices contain precious metals such as platinum, palladium or rhodium and can be removed from the bottom of a car or truck in as little as five minutes.

Thieves are getting anywhere from $50 to $250 per converter from recyclers, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) and replacing the part can cost $900 or more.

In an effort to stem the thefts, the NICB has recently teamed up with several Virginia police departments to host catalytic converter etching events. During the events, mechanics etch and paint vehicle registration numbers onto the converters, which serves to track the parts if stolen.

Additional etching events are currently being scheduled in Virginia. The NICB encourages law enforcement across the nation to hold similar events to help combat catalytic converter theft.

Other theft prevention options include installing a steel shield that fits over the catalytic converter, requiring time and extra tools to remove the part; cages made of high-strength steel that’s difficult to cut; or stainless-steel cables welded from the catalytic converter to the car’s frame.

If your converter is stolen, the theft is covered by the optional comprehensive portion of your insurance policy in some cases. But you will be responsible for paying the deductible. If your deductible is $1,000 and the cost to repair the damage costs $1,000 or maybe a few hundred dollars more, you may not opt to file a claim.

Drivers are advised to contact their insurers to report the theft and determine the best course of action.

NICB: Motorcycle Thefts Declined in 2018

Getty Images

Motorcycles are popular with riders seeking affordable transportation options and the thrill of the open road. But they can also be attractive targets for thieves. The good news is that motorcycle thefts saw a decline in 2017 and 2018 after an uptick in the previous two years.

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s (NICB) annual motorcycle thefts report, in 2018 motorcycle thefts were down by six percent with a total of 41,674 motorcycles reported stolen compared with 44,268 in 2017. About 44 percent of the motorcycles stolen in 2018 were recovered.

In general, motorcycle thefts are a seasonal crime related to warmer months, with 10 percent or more of thefts from the yearly total occurring in May, June, July, August, September, and October.

According to the report the top 10 states for motorcycle thefts in 2018 were:

  • California (7,035)
  • Florida (4,279)
  • Texas (3,073)
  • New York (1,777)
  • South Carolina (1,743)
  • North Carolina (1,466)
  • Indiana (1,229)
  • Missouri (1,194)
  • Georgia (1,174) and
  • Colorado (1,109)

The top 10 cities for motorcycle thefts in 2018 were:

  • New York (1,310)
  • Los Angeles (628)
  • Miami (595)
  • Las Vegas (540)
  • San Diego (527)
  • San Francisco (520)
  • Houston (460)
  • Philadelphia (404)
  • Austin (329) and
  • San Jose (322)

The top 10 most stolen motorcycles in 2018 by manufacturer were:

  • American Honda Motor Co., Inc. (8,260 thefts)
  • Yamaha Motor Corporation (6,655)
  • American Suzuki Motor Corporation (4,882)
  • Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A. (4,861)
  • Harley-Davidson, Inc. (4,769)
  • Taotao Group Co. Ltd (1,851)
  • KTM Sportmotorcycle AG (780)
  • Genuine Cycle (515)
  • Ducati Motor Holding (455)
  • Kymco U.S.A., Inc. (413)

The NICB offers the following fraud and theft prevention tips:

  •  Purchase your motorcycle from reputable manufacturers or dealers. When purchasing from a private party, avoid custom or “assembled vehicle.”
  • Take the motorcycle to a local dealership for inspection before purchasing.
  • When purchasing a motorcycle from a private party, consider investing in a vehicle history report. Also, go to your local law enforcement station to make the transaction. Many law enforcement agencies have “safe areas” to complete purchases between private parties.
  • When selling your bike, don’t turn over the title until the funds (check or money order) have cleared the bank.
  • Use common sense; park in well-lit areas, lock your ignition, and remove your keys.
  • Remove the key and lock your motorcycle even if stored in a garage. You may want to invest in additional aftermarket lock(s) and even a theft-deterrent system with tracking capabilities (e.g. GPS) for your motorcycle.
  • Don’t store your title in your motorcycle’s storage compartment.
  • Place unique markings on your motorcycle and take photos of them. If your bike is stolen, you can use these markings to identify your property.

The I.I.I. has Facts & Statistics on auto theft here.

Dodge Charger tops HLDI’s list of most likely to be stolen vehicles

The Dodge Charger HEMI and the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat are at the top of the Highway Loss Data Institute’s (HLDI) most-stolen vehicles list this year. Both cars have theft rates that are more than five times the average for 2016-18 models, with the same as the Infiniti Q50, a midsize luxury sedan.

HLDI released its most likely to be stolen list for 2016-2018 models today, and almost all 20 models with the highest theft rates either have big engines or are luxury vehicles or pickups.

At the top of the least stolen list is the two-wheel-drive BMW 3 series, a midsize luxury sedan. It had just one claim for whole-vehicle theft in 104,901 insured vehicle years (an insured vehicle year is one vehicle insured for one year).

The Tesla Model S and Model X are also on the least-stolen list. A 2018 HLDI report showed that electric vehicles from a variety of manufacturers have lower theft claim rates than comparable vehicles. Their low theft rate may be due to the fact that they are usually parked in garages or close to a house to be near a power supply.

The Cadillac Escalade, which previously dominated HLDI’s rankings of most-stolen vehicles, is notably absent from this year’s list. Part of the reason is that there are more large luxury SUVs for thieves to choose from but also because Cadillac added enhanced security features beginning with the 2015 model year.

“The models most likely to be stolen tend to be powerful, pricey or pickups, but vehicle theft is also a crime of opportunity,” says HLDI Senior Vice President Matt Moore. “Better security features on all vehicles would be the best way to address the problem.”