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By Richard A. Edwards

The Customs -Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (CTPAT) program is an often overlooked but potentially vital tool for companies engaged in international trade. Through this program, US Customs & Border Protection (CBP) works with the trade community to strengthen global supply chains and improve United States border security.

CTPAT is a voluntary public-private sector partnership program which recognizes that CBP can provide the highest level of cargo security only through close cooperation with the principal stakeholders of the international supply chain such as importers, carriers, consolidators, licensed customs brokers, and manufacturers.

Launched in November 2001 just after the September 11 terrorist attacks, the original intent of the program was to prevent ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’ and potential terrorists from being smuggled into the US through the legitimate supply chain. Now, it is one (significant) layer in US CBP’s multi-layered cargo enforcement strategy. It creates a ‘controllable security zone’ from an international shipment’s foreign point of origin to US destinations. The program started with seven companies; today, over 12,500 business entities are certified in all categories.

Since its inception, CTPAT has evolved into a program designed to make border processes more efficient for pre-approved businesses recognized as low risk. Additionally, membership in CTPAT can facilitate trade for importers, exporters, carriers, and others in their supply chains, as well as enhance marketability and global competitiveness. By being considered low risk by customs authorities, CTPAT certified companies are less likely to experience border delays due to examinations.

CTPAT companies can also benefit from faster access to the border and business resumption benefits in the event of border disruptions. This results in time savings, less risk of spoiled perishable goods, and a more predictable border experience overall. By incorporating various security measures, CTPAT member companies reduce the risk of potential tampering to their shipments. This builds confidence with customs and border authorities and enhances a company’s reputation and marketability.

The cost of membership to the trade community is full compliance with established and well-defined ‘Security Criteria’. Members must implement and develop processes and training to ensure adherence to security measures covering the physical security of facilities, conveyance security, personnel security, procedural security, and IT security. All elements of the international supply chain, including external business partners, must comply with these security criteria (although all do not need to be certified) and members must have written and verifiable procedures covering them.

CTPAT has become the model for a worldwide network of what are known as Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) programs. Customs administrations have developed AEO programs in most countries recognized as trading partners with the US to make border processes more efficient for members in those locations.

The security specialists of ResultQuest can guide you through the process of attaining the time and cost saving CTPAT certification. For more information regarding the CTPAT program, its benefits, and how to become a certified member, contact us at 713/781-9040.