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PKP CARGO uses drones to protect itself against cargo theft

PKP CARGO has launched a wide-ranging campaign to secure shipments in order to reduce pilferage of transported solid fuels, which grow in intensity in the autumn and winter season.  Apart from new organisational solutions, rail car security features and preventive campaigns run in collaboration with the Railroad Guards Service, drones will be used for the first time to monitor theft-prone areas.

“Pilferage of bulk commodities when moved by our company is a phenomenon we have been tackling for many years, and ensuing losses amount to as much as several million zlotys per year”, says Maciej Borecki, Head of Security and Audit Office at PKP CARGO. “In order to reduce the scale of this crime, this year we have decided to step up preventive measures and use the latest technologies.”

As a part of its measures, PKP CARGO focuses, first of all, on prevention. To this end, the carrier closely works with the Railroad Guards Service and the police who are competent to prosecute these crimes and perpetrators. In 2014, a special Threat Prevention Task Force was established, whose main goal is to reduce losses incurred by PKP CARGO. It operates mainly in the Silesian region, where thefts are most prevalent. The Task Force works closely with PKP CARGO offices in the region to obtain information about which coal mine and according to what timetable a coal shipment leaves. Members of the Task Force together with Railroad Guards monitor most vulnerable locations on an ongoing basis.

Additionally, cyclical preventive campaigns are organised in collaboration with specially trained response teams from the Railroad Guards Service. This year, PKP CARGO has started to use for this purpose drones, which make it possible to carry out aerial surveillance. These devices are equipped with different types of cameras, including infrared cameras, which make them effective, whatever the time of the day or weather conditions.

This year, PKP CARGO is also introducing much more effective bolt-based rail car security features. Rail cars have so far been secured by the so-called wiring, where door locks are blocked using standardised wires made of hardened steel. During tests of the new security features which involved over a hundred coal hoppers, not a single attempt to breach them has been successful.

“We can already say now that as a result of our hard work, this year we can see a gradual decrease in the number of such crimes compared to the last year. Only in the period between January and October, we managed to reduce losses related to thefts of solid fuels by over 20% in terms of the number of incidents, quantities of stolen coal and their value”, says Maciej Borecki“I am convinced that measures we have currently launched will allow us to reduce this criminal activity even further” – adds Maciej Borecki.

900 pilferages

During the first ten months of 2014, the carrier recorded almost 900 instances of coal theft. The total value of ensuing losses has been estimated at over PLN 4 million, while the quantity of stolen coal – at over 8,000 tonnes. With the advent of winter months, a sharp rise in the number of documented incidents and the volume of cargo lost to theft can be seen.

Thefts are usually committed by well-organised crime groups. One of the most frequently used methods is an attempt to stop the train e.g. by placing an obstacle across the tracks. In order to avoid derailment, train drivers are forced to stop the train set, informing relevant services about the obstacle. Then, thieves “syphon off” coal within a matter of minutes. During a single incident, thieves can manage to “syphon off” as much as several tonnes of coal.

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