By Marisa Yamane
Honolulu police are looking for the person who stole a Matson shipping container from the Safeway store on Beretania Street.
It happened on Sunday, March 16.
Surveillance video caught the thief in action.
At 4:06 a.m. the thief drove to the back of the Safeway Beretania parking lot, where the loading docks are located. After a couple of minutes, he backed up his tractor, hooked it up to the chassis, and then drove off with the container at 4:11 a.m.
KHON2 asked Hawaii Transportation Association’s Managing Director Gareth Sakakida: “How common is something like this here in Hawaii?”
Sakakida replied: “Not common in Hawaii at all. But on the mainland, stealing trailers, hijacking whole tractor trailer combination, it does happen and quite a lot.”
FreightWatch International recently released its U.S. Cargo Theft Report for 2013.
There were 951 reported incidents of cargo theft across the nation, and in most of those cases the thief made off with an entire container.
Food and drinks accounted for 27 percent of all cargo thefts, topping the list of the most stolen cargo in the U.S.
In fact, 2013 was the the fourth year in a row that food and drinks topped the list. FreightWatch says food loads usually have lower security than containers carrying electronics.
Electronics came in second on the list at 14 percent, and home/garden and metal loads tied for third place at 10 percent each.
The average value per stolen load was $171,000.
California led the country last year with the most cargo thefts, followed by Texas and Florida.
“I’m really surprised that it happened here finally,” Sakakida said.
In fact, something similar happened last December. A shipping container was stolen not from a retailer, but from the pier.
Boating supplier West Marine was the victim.
According to the store’s manager, when their freight forwarder went to pick up their container from Horizon Lines on Sand Island, the container had already been picked up.
It’s been three months since that happened, and still no sign of the stolen goods, valued at $100,000.
But the chassis on which the container sat was recovered a couple weeks later. It had been abandoned on the freeway.
So, how do you prevent cargo theft?
“The only thing I can think of is theKing Pin lock, for the trailer. On the trailer, there’s a pin that comes down, where the tractor comes back in and they have a fifth wheel that goes around this pin and locks in, so if you have something on the King Pin, you can’t lock into that,” Sakakida said.
On Friday, Safeway Beretania had stacked up some pallets in front of the Matson container — perhaps as a deterrent.
The FBI says many companies don’t report cargo crimes to avoid bad publicity and higher insurance rates.
But industry experts estimate that cargo thefts can add up to as much as $30 billion in losses each year, hurting not only the retailers and insurance companies, but also the consumers as well.
Police didn’t tell us what was inside the stolen Matson container, and Safeway hasn’t returned our calls.
But if you recognize the person in the surveillance video, or know where to find him, or know where the stolen container and goods ended up, call Crimestoppers at (808) 955-8300.