Introduction

The need to maintain safe and secure logistics and supply chain channels is receiving a lot of importance and attention worldwide. Once such legislation aimed at accomplishing this particular task, known as the C-TPAT, is the focal point of this article.

What Is the C-TPAT?

C-TPAT officially stands for the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism. It is led by the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The primary objective of this legislation is to help improve the level of security of the lines of shipping against any act of terrorism, including those that are cyber-related. It was also created to further fortify the United States border and to ensure the free flow of goods and products.

It is important to note that this program is completely voluntary; no single business entity (which are primarily the importers) are required to join. If they do, however, they can become eligible to receive assistance in not only securing their cargo from the point of origin, but also in ensuring that it reaches the U.S. port of destination safely. This partnership is also geared towards the transportation carriers, freight consolidators, cargo brokers and manufacturers.

The C-TPAT was initially launched in November 2001 and started out with just seven members. Now it has grown over 11,400 certified partners and is still growing. Approximately 54% of this total membership is comprised solely of importers.

The Security and Accountability for Every Port Act of 2006 further provides support for the C-TPAT partnership by implementing extremely strict oversight requirements.

The Business Entities That Can Join C-TPAT

Just about any organization that is involved in the import and export business can enroll in and become official members of the C-TPAT. Examples of this include:

  • Importers and exporters that are based in the United States
  • Freight carriers based in both the United States and Canada
  • Highway carriers that are based out of both the United States and Mexico
  • All rail and sea carriers
  • U.S. customer brokers that have their own unique certification
  • Operators that conduct business activity out U.S. marine ports and terminals
  • Freight consolidators that are based out of the U.S.
  • Any brokers that are involved in ocean transportation and any other closely allied businesses
  • Manufacturers that have their primary business location in both Canada and Mexico
  • All long-haul carriers that reside in Mexico

Once any of these business entities become official members of the C-TPAT, they have to formally announce that they will deploy and implement certain types of security mechanisms in their respective supply chains. This is all in an effort to protect shipping coming into the United States from terrorist infiltration groups and cyberattacks.

Once organizations join the C-TPAT, they must also provide the CBP with personally identifiable information and data so that their identity can be 100% confirmed. The CBP also works closely with law enforcement agencies both here in the United States and abroad in order to engage in effective intelligence gathering and sharing.

How a Business Entity Can Be Become a Member of the C-TPAT

Any business organization that wishes to join the C-TPAT must complete the application process online at the CBP website, which can be found here. There are two parts of this application process that must be filled out in their entirety:

The Company Profile

The applicant must provide the following information:

  • The name of the business
  • The kinds of shipping activities that the business is currently engaged in
  • The address of the business
  • All relevant contact details

Once this information has been submitted, the applicant will then have their own online portal. The next step in the process is to complete the security process, detailed below.

The Security Profile

The applicant must answer very specific security questions (which of course are not publicly available). Once you have answered these questions and submitted your answers on your online portal, it will be reviewed by a Supply Chain Security Specialist (SCSS), who will make the ultimate decision if your organization will be able to join the C-TPAT.

Once you have been accepted, the same SCSS will personally arrange for an actual site visit of your business operations in order to observe and record your security practices. Once he or she is fully satisfied, you will then be formally accepted into the C-TPAT and recognized as a Tier II Company with full benefits. You will also be required to draft and submit a detailed security plan which also must be submitted to the CBP.

The Benefits of the C-TPAT

Once you have been officially accepted into the C-TPAT, you will receive a comprehensive set of benefits. These include:

  • You will be at the front of the line for any required inspections that take place
  • You will be exempt from “Stratified Exams”
  • The processing times at your U.S. port of destination will be much shorter
  • There will be a dedicated SCSS (as described in the last section) you will have access to, to provide help, answer questions and resolve any issues
  • You will have 100% access to the Free and Secure Trade Lanes at all U.S. ports of destination
  • At your online portal, you will have complete access to training materials and other relevant resources
  • Your organization will be recognized as a trusted partner of the United States Federal Government
  • You will be given favored consideration in order to fully participate in pilot and other forms of test programs that are initiated by the United States Federal Government as it relates to shipping/logistics/supply chains
  • In the case of a terrorist or a cyberattack (and even in a natural disaster as well), your organization will be given first priority when it comes to business restoration assistance
  • You will be able to participate in the Importer Self-Assessment Program
  • Your organization will be given first preference to participate in conferences and trade shows, such as the “Centers of Excellence and Expertise”
  • You can receive certain credits from the CBP
  • If your organization has been penalized in any way, you will be eligible to receive 50% off of the fines that have been imposed
  • Your organization will not be penalized under the “Bio-Terrorism Act”
  • On your online portal, you will be able to communicate with other C-TPAT members in real-time via the specialized Instant Messaging tool that was created and implemented
  • If you far exceed the minimum-security requirements, you could also have the potential where you will face no security inspections at your US port of destination
  • If your Bill of Lading consists of multiple cargo items and one is pulled for inspection, your other cargo items will be allowed to go through without any further inspection. This will save you expensive “Demurrage Charges”
  • You will be able to establish a personal relationship with the staff of the CBP without the bureaucracy and associated red tape that can be involved with under normal circumstances.

The C-TPAT Minimum Security Requirements and Guidelines

The C-TPAT mandates that all of their members meet certain minimum-security requirements, which are as follows:

1. The Implementation of Physical Security Access Controls

Members must deploy appropriate security measures to:

  • Ensure the security of buildings
  • Prohibit unauthorized access to loading docks and cargo areas
  • Ensure that the cargo handling and storage areas have physical barriers
  • Prevent unauthorized access into any buildings
  • Prevent any sort of un-manifested items from entering the cargo and conveyor areas

2. Procedural Security

As described, all members of the C-TPAT must submit a security plan which details the following:

  • To provide assurances that the processes that are being implemented to transport the cargo maintain strong levels of integrity and security
  • How the existence of levels of security can be further enhanced when the cargo is shipped from the point of origin to the point of destination
  • A system of periodic and random audits in order to make sure that member is and will continue to follow the rules and regulations of the C-TPAT

3. Container, Trailer and Rail Car Security

In this requirement, the member must provide details as to how they will:

  • Maintain high levels of security on all shipping containers and other mechanisms that are used to ship goods and products (this includes the usage of trailers and rail cars as well)
  • Ensure that the proper security procedures are followed when the actual goods and products are packed into the container, trailer, or rail car at the point of origin. In other words, they must be securely sealed in order to ensure their integrity

4. Data and Document Security

The member must:

  • Have a well-formulated security policy in place to in order to ensure that there is no unauthorized access to any computers or related IT equipment
  • Have the appropriate set of controls in place to protect digital assets, which primarily includes that of confidential information and data

5. Personnel Security

The member must demonstrate to the SCSS that:

  • They conduct the appropriate screening on both existing employees and potential employees
  • The appropriate background checks are done on employees who either work in sensitive areas at the point of origin/point of destination, and/or have access and work with the confidential information and data

6. Security Training and Awareness

In this particular requirement, the member also must:

  • Have a regular Security Awareness Training Program implemented to:
    • Teach employees about their Security responsibilities and how to maintain the proper levels of cyber-hygiene
    • Appropriately train employees to recognize social engineering attacks, insider attacks and the other threats posed by terrorists, criminals and cyberattackers

7. Business Partner Requirements

The member must demonstrate that:

  • If they use an outside third party, that they pass the appropriate background checks and also confirm the security measures that they have in place are up the levels mandated by the C-TPAT

8. Supply Chain Security Planning

As a part of their overall security plan, the member must:

  • Conduct a risk assessment of their own logistics and supply chains in order to uncover any unforeseen security vulnerabilities and weaknesses and come up with the appropriate risk mitigation strategy

Conclusion: Why Should Your Organization Join the C-TPAT?

The question often gets asked is why should my organization join the C-TPAT? Here are a number of compelling reasons why you should possibly join:

  • In the eyes of the United States federal government, you will be recognized as a low-risk importer or exporter by being C-TPAT-certified
  • You will be able to engage in newer business opportunities with other members that you may not have the opportunity to do so otherwise
  • Being a member of the C-TPAT will increase your credibility and brand reputation with both new and existing customers
  • It will show that you are very proactive about maintaining the highest levels of security for your goods and cargo
  • You will achieve peace of mind knowing that your shipment will safely reach the point of destination and be handled appropriately
  • You will avoid any unnecessary delays in your shipments
  • Best of all, there is no charge for achieving C-TPAT Certification!

Sources

CTPAT: Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism, U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) – FAQs, Descartes

What you need to know about Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism C-TPAT, Shapiro

C-TPAT Audit and Compliance, Asia Inspection

DHS/CBP/PIA – 013 Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT), Homeland Security

Applying for CTPAT, U.S. Customs and Border Protection

C-TPAT Minimum Security Criteria for Business Partners, FramGroup

5 reasons to become C-TPAT now, LinkedIn

Top 5 Reasons to Apply for C-TPAT Certification, Quality Certification Alliance

Five Ways You Can Benefit from the C-TPAT Program, Hitachi

Should Your Logistics Company be C-TPAT Certified?, The Receptionist