TT Talk - Terrorism & the supply chain, what exposure?


  • Date: 05/12/2017
  • Source: TT Talk 233
TT Talk - Terrorism & the supply chain, what exposure?

The concept of terrorism is thought to date back to the 18th Century. Indeed, the word ‘terrorism’ is understood to have entered into European languages in the wake of the French revolution of 1789. Further definitions or categorisations are hardly necessary since so many parts of the globe have been exposed to terrorist incidents.

Recent terrorist incidents have been less geographically discriminate. Whilst arguably in certain jurisdictions terrorism has a higher profile through media influence, in the 21st Century terrorism is a truly global challenge. With the primary aspiration of generating fear, the ramifications of such acts unfortunately often reach much farther than the act itself. Terrorism impacts the lives of individuals, families and friends in terms of injury or loss of life, but moreover influences thought and behaviour of people far and wide, not just those directly and indirectly affected.

The fundamental aims of recent terrorist acts have been mass loss of life and often disruption of the immediate local area. However, the global impact through traditional and social media channels, while less tragic, can be highly significant. The targets chosen are frequently ‘soft’ targets, often avoiding high profile organised events which are generally subject to greater security alertness and protection. In practical terms, this strategy has made protection of the public or detection and intervention by security authorities more challenging.

Supply chain considerations
The supply chain sustainability through all modes is itself at risk from terrorism, which is something that should be considered as part of any operator’s risk management policy. It is considered that the proceeds of cargo theft are funding at least part of terrorist activity. Therefore, robust practices around cargo security are of importance. Furthermore, there may be heightened risks around the volume of dangerous goods shipped globally which inherently could be used to further the aims of terrorism.

As yet, it is not known that cargoes have been directly involved, but on several occasions light and heavy goods vehicles have been used as weapons in terrorist incidents. The size and weight characteristics of such vehicles have been harnessed to drive at speed into pedestrian zones inflicting significant loss of life and injury. Such vehicles are widely available and do not immediately cause concern; where good practice security measures are not undertaken they are relatively accessible. 

“Where good practice security measures are not undertaken heavy goods vehicles are relatively accessible” 

Start with awareness training
From a training perspective, raising the awareness of all (not just mobile) personnel to the associated risk exposures should be a first step. For those who are mobile (eg. truck drivers), instructions to take unpredictable routes and establishing a set communication procedure can assist in minimising the associated risks. 

It is also prudent to create a clear internal escalation process in the event that a vehicle is requested to stop unexpectedly during a journey, with a view to verifying that the person making the request has legitimate intentions. Such procedures might instruct drivers not to stop for anybody other than the relevant empowered authorities. If instructed to pull over by the authorities, the driver should immediately notify management and be vigilant. Drivers should consider whether the uniform appears genuine or if there the person is driving a marked vehicle. Where there are suspicions, request proof of identity before allowing anyone access to the vehicle. It may be that recording and sending images or video clips is possible and will enable assistance to be provided.

The more hidden, indirect consequences of terrorism are also impacting the supply chain, such as a general degradation of trust, travel restrictions, disruption and delays. Furthermore, there is significant reputational risk should a branded vehicle be used in an attack. However, the general operational impact from increased security checks, for instance, will undoubtedly impact efficiency in the supply chain. Such delays will give rise to negative effects on stock levels and potentially increased congestion at cross border and delivery points. 

Assess the risks
Logistics operators – particularly land-based – should undertake a security risk assessment in order to consider an appropriate risk appetite and the development of an appropriate security plan. As initial pointers, this should consider vehicle and cargo security, seeking to maintain the integrity of the supply chain. Consideration should also be given to your business’ resilience to terrorist incidents and building contingency plans to mitigate direct or indirect implications. Developing a crisis management plan is in any event good practice; a key factor in this type of risk is management of the media immediately following an incident. Whilst challenging, if one of your vehicles was stolen and used in a terrorist attack, how would you respond to the inevitable media attention?

“All supply chain stakeholders need to be aware of the risk of the exposure that normal activities have to generating or facilitating the risk of terrorism”

All supply chain stakeholders need to be aware of the risk of terrorism and the exposure that normal activities have to generating or facilitating the risk. Employees should be encouraged to identify and report suspicious behaviour. The fact is that an act of terrorism can happen anywhere and at any time. From a resilience and continuity perspective, there is now more than ever an immediate need to strengthen the security of the supply chain.


We hope that you have found the above interesting. If you would like further information, or have any comments, please email us, or take this opportunity to forward to any colleagues who you may feel would be interested.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Peregrine Storrs-Fox
Risk Management Director, TT Club


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+44 7000 882582

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