In today’s ever-chaining business environment, organizations are faced with ongoing security challenges. It’s crucial for shippers to understand any potential risks to their supply chains and establish security plans to avoid disruption. One significant way for shippers to proactively protect their operations is by becoming a member of the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) program.
Established in 2001, as a direct result of the September 11 terror attacks, the C-TPAT program is part of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) multi-layered cargo enforcement strategy. Through this voluntary program, the CBP works with the importers, shippers, carriers, brokers and logistics providers to implement best practices for ensuring a safe, secure and expeditious supply chain. Today, there are more than 11,400 certified C-TPAT partners in the program, and these companies account for more than 52 percent of the products imported into the U.S.
C-TPAT Member Benefits
In addition to promoting supply chain security, participating in the C-TPAT program can yield significant benefits for shippers and transportation providers, including:
Fewer customs inspections – C-TPAT certification offers companies the opportunity to decrease customs inspections and documentation reviews. According to the CBP, C-TPAT members are 3.5 times less likely to incur a security or compliance examination.
Faster border crossings – Members have access to special Free and Secure Trade (FAST) lanes at border crossings, and can move to the front of the line during inspections. This can significantly expedite border crossings at many Canada/Mexico land border ports.
Quick response time – Following a national emergency, companies participating in the C-TPAT program are eligible to resume business first.
Enhanced reputation – Participating in a national security program reflects a company’s ongoing commitment to safety. Some companies will only do business with importers that are C-TPAT certified–giving members a competitive edge.
Cost avoidance – By decreasing potential supply chain disruptions, C-TPAT members can avoid costs associated with delayed shipments. Additionally, organizations penalized in any way is eligible to receive up to a 50 percent reduction on the imposed fine.
While almost every organization that is involved in the import and export business can enroll in the C-TPAT program, eligibility requirements vary by business type. But to achieve certification, all companies are required to:
-Conduct a risk assessment
-Implement a supply chain security management system that complies with C-TPAT requirements
-Submit a detailed application
-Meet with CBP representatives to verify security measures
In addition to obtaining their own certification, organizations can support the C-TPAT program by working with third-party logistics (3PL) providers that are also C-TPAT certified. C-TPAT-certified 3PLs act as an additional layer of protection against supply chain attacks, because they operate as an extension of the company’s established security procedures, essentially building a stronger company brand.
A 3PL with active participation in the Mexican and Canadian markets also brings a portfolio of carriers and companies that are approved by C-TPAT, or that comply with minimum requirements for C-TPAT partners, essentially giving shippers a competitive advantage.
Addressing Evolving Supply Chain Risks
As supply chain risk continues to evolve, so too do the C-TPAT requirements. In May, the CBP announced that it has added Minimum-Security Criteria (MSC) requirements to the C-TPAT guidelines to help further mitigate risks. Some of the areas that were incorporated and updated in the program’s new criteria included:
-Issues related to cyber security
-Protection of the supply chain from agricultural contaminants and pests
-Prevention of money laundering and terrorism financing
-The proper use and management of security technology, such as intrusion alarms and security camera systems
-Members are expected to implement the new criteria throughout the remainder of 2019, and validation of the new MSC will begin in early 2020.
Support Supply Chain Safety
With security risks threatening supply chains around the globe, it is important for companies to support initiatives that aim to tackle and prevent supply chain risks. By obtaining C-the certification, businesses have the unique opportunity to take an active role in supporting national security while improving their own supply chain operations.
While there are no costs associated with joining the C-TPAT program, companies often have to invest in improving their practices to meet the minimum-security requirements and effectively maintain a compliant program. However, this investment goes a long way in helping companies mitigate risk, avoid supply chain disruptions and drive greater efficiencies for cross-border transport.
Linda Bravo is the Corporate Customs Broker at Transplace, where Sergio Flores is the Safety and Security Coordinator. Transplace is a 3PL provider offering logistics technology and transportation management services to manufacturers, retailers, chemical and consumer packaged goods companies. Learn more at Transplace.com.