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What is C-TPAT?

The Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) was created in November 2001 in response to the 9/11 attacks. It is considered one layer of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) multi-layered cargo enforcement strategy. C-TPAT is a voluntary program and there is no fee to join. It allows a company to work closely with the U.S. Government in its war against terrorism and receive a reduced number of examinations at the border. But who should apply and what must a company do to get C-TPAT certified?

C-TPAT is for importers, exporters, customs brokers, foreign manufacturers, carriers and logistics companies. At its inception, the program focused on inbound shipments. But as C-TPAT continued to evolve, the important role that exports play in the international supply chain was recognized. Further, the export component enhances both the C-TPAT program and the relationship with other mutually recognized Foreign Customs administrations.

C-TPAT involves a company meeting the program’s minimum security criteria throughout its supply chain, from the supplier to the first U.S. port. Minimum security criteria include processes for risk assessment, selection of business partners, point of origin security, container security, physical access controls, personnel security, procedural security, physical security and information technology security. These criteria mandate procedures such as inspecting a container before stuffing, sealing containers properly, having all visitors sign in and wear badges, conducting background checks on employees, reconciling arriving cargo against the manifest, enclosing cargo handling and storage facilities with fencing, regular changing of computer passwords and threat awareness.

The benefits of C-TPAT include being assigned a supply chain security specialist from CBP, a reduced number of CBP inspections, access to the Free and Secure Trade (FAST) lanes at land borders and recognition by foreign Customs administrations as a trusted trade partner in the U.S.

CBP reports that C-TPAT importers are six times less likely to undergo a security related cargo examination, and four times less likely to be subject to a trade related examination, than non-C-TPAT members. However, CBP emphasizes that the benefits extend beyond the rate of examination to risk avoidance, a safer supply chain, being able to compete for contracts that require C-TPAT certification and taking advantage of the credibility that C-TPAT brings.

Pete Mento, a C-TPAT consultant with global tax services firm Ryan, told JOC.com that “the true benefit of the program is that the companies that decide to treat it seriously have a more secure supply chain. The true benefit of the program is that companies have a partnership with Customs, a contact at Customs.”

If your company is interested C-TPAT certification, contact Sharon May at (701) 231-1158 or sharon@ndto.com for more information.

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