American Shipper

DHS plans changes for C-TPAT, adds more cargo security measures

DHS plans changes for C-TPAT, adds more cargo security measures

   The Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism is evolving from a purely voluntary program in which industry adopts recommended supply chain practices to one in which participation will be based on minimum security standards, said Elaine Dezenski, the Department of Homeland Security's deputy assistant secretary for policy and planning for border and transportation security.

   C-TPAT will transition to a “universal requirement for the whole industry,” Dezenski said.

   The change is part of a top-to-bottom policy review of cargo security policies underway at DHS, she said at a cargo security forum in Washington held by British conference organizer “eyefortransport.”

   Customs and Border Protection is circulating a draft document among select members of the import/export trade that changes the voluntary nature of how companies can comply with security guidelines to one that imposes minimum standards, Renee Stein, senior manager for worldwide trade and customs compliance for Microsoft, confirmed.

   “They are not guidelines anymore,” Stein said during a presentation at the conference. Terms like “should” and “recommend” that permeate the C-TPAT agreement have now been replaced by the word “shall,” she said.

   The influential Advisory Committee on Commercial Operations recently submitted a report to DHS and CBP with recommendations on how to strengthen C-TPAT, but Stein, who was a lead author of the report, suggested CBP's plan was put together “without the input of the private sector.”

   Stein said some CBP officials are indicating the new C-TPAT rules could be implemented within 30 days. CBP officials will conduct a conference call Wednesday with industry members to get feedback on the draft, according to other COAC sources.

   Importers who have seen the draft expressed alarm at some of the new C-TPAT provisions and the cost to implement them, which they declined to discuss in detail.

   Other key areas of DHS activity to protect against terrorists seeking to exploit the global supply chain include the rapid deployment of radiation portal monitors that can passively read radiation levels as trucks check out of ports. More than 270 of these large panels are being deployed at ports around the country, Dezenski said.

   Installation of more than 80 of the goal-post style devices will be installed at truck gates and other locations at terminals in the Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex beginning in January, said Aileen Suliveras, assistant port director for CBP, Saturday during the Pacific Coast Council of Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders conference in San Diego. CBP will also deploy mobile radiation detection vehicles at the port, she said.

   Dezenski reiterated that DHS continues to study ways to get better commercial information to make risk assessment about which containers to target for inspection earlier in the process. Admissibility decisions are largely based on information provided by the ocean carrier from the manifest, but officials want to drill deeper into the supply chain for information on the true port of origin, all parties associated with the shipment and more accurate cargo descriptions potentially available from sales, production and transportation information.

   DHS continues to conduct research and development for sensors that can be placed on containers to detect changes in light and other signs of intrusion and protect against weapons of mass destruction being smuggled in the boxes. The sensor devices likely would be incorporated with some type of radio frequency identification device to transmit an alarm, but Dezenski said such products would not be commercially viable for another three to five years.

   DHS is also seeking ways to effectively link up with local law enforcement agencies so they can interdict a container if customs officers determine there is a danger after a container has been released from the port, Dezenski said.

   Efforts are also underway to develop contingency plans and protocols for resuming trade flows in the aftermath of an attack on a port or other parts of the transportation system to spread the word to importers and carriers that they can start shipping again.

   More than 7,000 companies have signed up for C-TPAT, but Dezenski said the agency needs to more effectively market the benefits of its supply chain standards to get corporations to take the initiative on security efforts. Dezenski, repeating a suggestion she made last summer, said the International Standards Organization could be a forum to develop standards for technology and procedures that could be linked to government standards for allowing entry of goods into the country.

   Meanwhile, the United States is using diplomacy to get other countries to spread its supply chain security principles to the international arena, she said.