Getting Your Goods Through Port Faster While Keeping the Country Safe– Is Membership in C-TPAT Right for You?

Baker Donelson

Baker Donelson

If you are importing a large volume of products from abroad and are not aware of the C-TPAT program administered by Customs and Border Protection (CBP), then you may want to consider the benefits of the program. C-TPAT is short for the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism, and participants in the program are six times less likely to undergo a security related cargo examination. Additionally, C-TPAT participants are four times less likely to be subject to a trade related examination than non-C-TPAT members. These significantly fewer cargo examinations help save importers time and money.

Benefits of the program include:

  • Priority Processing: C-TPAT shipments are moved ahead of any non-C-TPAT shipments. C-TPAT shipment are allowed access to land border expedited processing via the FAST program.
  • Reduced Examination Rates and Time: C-TPAT exporters will receive trade facilitation benefits, including prioritized examination over non-C-TPAT members.
  • Mutual Recognition Arrangements (MRA): Participants may receive heightened facilitation from foreign partners, depending on the MRAs in place.
  • Business Resumption: In the event of a significant disruption/delay in CBP cargo processing operations, actions are taken to maintain communication and coordination.
  • Access to Individually-Assigned C-TPAT Supply Chain Security Specialist (SCSS): Each C-TPAT partner is assigned a SCSS who is available to assist the partner with questions regarding supply chain security.
  • Eligibility to Attend C-TPAT Training and Seminars: Such as the annual C-TPAT conference which provides opportunities to network with other C-TPAT members.
  • Marketing: Companies are often more confident that C-TPAT partner cargo is more secure, and thus, more likely to do business with a C-TPAT certified partner.

In order to participate in C-TPAT, companies must comply with C-TPAT’s Supply Chain Security Criteria, which includes maintaining a documented export security program headed by a designated officer or manager to act as C-TPAT’s main point of contact. Further, companies must have a documented and verifiable process for determining risk throughout their supply chain. Although there are compliance costs associated with C-TPAT membership, most of the membership requirements involve things that importers should be doing anyway and the program does allow for “flexibility and customization of security plans.” depending on the particular importer.

In short, participation in the program also allows companies guidance and structure to step up their compliance efforts. When combined with the trade facilitation benefits members enjoy under the program, membership is a win-win for many importers.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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