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Assessment: Global Impact of COVID-19 Lockdowns to Supply Chains in 2020

17 December 2020

BSI, the business improvement company, released its 2020 assessment on the global impact COVID-19 lockdowns had on supply chains and predictions for how it will impact the year ahead. BSI’s team of experts analyzed a year of data via their proprietary supply chain intelligence platform, Screen, which provides insight into global supply chain security, business continuity, food safety and fraud, and corporate social responsibility threats and trends in real-time.

“Throughout 2020, the entire world felt the impact of COVID-19 as the flow of goods was dramatically impacted due to widespread supply chain disruptions,” said Jim Yarbrough, Global Intelligence Program Manager at BSI. “The threats that COVID-19 presented to supply chain security, continuity, and resilience exacerbated traditional risks faced every year and also created new vulnerabilities and risks that experts will need to tackle in the year ahead.”

According to the latest insights from BSI, due to the economic effects of COVID-19:

  • Cargo thefts increased, and the goods targeted shifted to match the newly high-demand products like PPE and medical devices and supplies
  • Further, criminals employed additional strategies to obtain cargo, targeted facilities in addition to parking lots and in-transit vehicles
  • Migrants and children became more likely to endure labour-related human rights violations due to displacement and school closures
  • Port security faced new challenges as drug smugglers looked to new routes for illegal activity due to border closures

Cargo Thefts

Strategies employed by thieves shifted this year as a result of COVID-19 lockdowns and consumer demand for certain products. Specifically, BSI data found increased incidents of criminals targeting food and beverage commodities and alcohol and tobacco, likely due to increased value resulting from panic-buying, stockpiling, and shortages. Consumer products, such as hand sanitiser and cleaning supplies, as well as medical devices and supplies, including PPE, were targeted at elevated rates in many regions due to their high demand and subsequent shortages. As lockdowns continue into 2021, warehouse facilities where these items are stockpiled may continue to be targets for theft.

Migration and Forced Labour

At the start of the year, there was a decrease in migration due to border closures and other impacts of the pandemic; however, new stowaway smuggling routes and labour risks were established later in the year. As economic downturns and lockdowns continue globally, migration picked back up throughout the Americas and Europe, and new routes have developed in those regions.

Further, as economic hardships continue and schools remain closed, child and forced labour incidents are likely to impact vulnerable groups, including migrants. As restrictions on movement continue into 2021, and certain regions continue to have a lack of labour rights enforcement, it is likely migrants will continue to be especially vulnerable to human rights violations and harsh working conditions for the remainder of 2020 and in the year ahead.

Introduction of New Drug Smuggling Routes

With lockdowns closing borders and mobility bans cutting off traditional supply chains, criminals shifted drug smuggling methodologies, particularly in the Americas. The global decrease in flights combined with closed borders has made it more challenging for cartels to illegally traffic drugs. This shift in methodologies created challenges for operators in impacted regions, threatening port security and other drug introduction points to cargo across the globe and will continue to do so in the year ahead.

Impact of Political Protests

Despite widespread lockdowns, political protests continued to occur throughout the year mainly in the summer months. These political protests were exacerbated by governments’ responses to COVID-19 in many regions, creating larger demonstrations which often impacted ground transportation and caused delays for transporters at checkpoints. As we move into 2021, organizations should be aware of potential threats to ground transportation operations due to political protests.