C-TPAT Overview

On September 11, 2001, our country’s security awareness was heightened as a result of the terrorist attacks. The United States and other countries initiated new security measures designed to reduce the potential for terrorism. These new security measures impact every business involved in international trade along with every portion of the supply chain. As part of the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) formally launched the Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) program on April 16, 2002.


More than 10,000 importers, carriers and intermediaries have joined C-TPAT (while many more are in the process of joining) in a voluntary effort to protect supply chains from terrorists who could use one of the 9 million cargo containers that arrive in the United States each year to smuggle personnel, guns and weapons of mass destruction. More than 16,000 companies have been validated.


The C-TPAT program is a voluntary initiative between CBP and private business to build relationships that strengthen international supply chains, which is made up of your supply chain business partners (SCBP) and improve U.S. border security. A business supply chain partner is all of the people /companies that have access to your cargo and related documents from the point of origin/stuffing/containerization all the way through its importation into the U.S. These parties could include the manufacturer, the trucking company to the sea/air port, consolidation stations, the carrier (air, sea, rail, truck across  the border), the broker, the drayage company in the U.S., third party warehouses, container freight stations (CFS), customs exam site (CES), distribution center, or (direct to) the customer. You begin with the foreign shipper and end with the importer or consignee regardless of whether you are responsible for contracting the supply chain provider.


C-TPAT members must abide to various security practices, such as; doing a due diligence background check on any potential import SCBP, conducting comprehensive background checks on employment candidates, requiring that all unknown visitors provide identification, instituting password protection on the computer system (with periodic password changes), as well as many others.


You may ask; How does the company benefit by joining the C-TPAT program?  When cargo is imported, CBP assigns an undisclosed risk value to your shipment; assessing such risk factors as country of origin, supplier, type of product and developed intelligence. What is a low risk country today may be a high risk country tomorrow. When a C-TPAT member imports cargo, CBP deducts points from the risk value. This results in the imported cargo being placed in a preferred category, which may mean minimal inspections & audits or no inspections & audits at all. Even if the cargo is inspected, the process is faster if the cargo belongs to a C-TPAT member. All of this translates into reduced inspection fees, customs fees and cargo fees. Most importantly, the cargo arrives on time.