International trading companies see secondary benefits from C-TPAT
Many U.S. importers are going beyond guidelines and benchmarks agreed to when they joined the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism and implementing stricter security measures because they see the program as a form of long-term insurance, Brian Goebel, a senior advisor to Bureau of Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Robert Bonner, said Monday.
To date more than 5,400 companies have signed agreements with Customs to participate in the agency’s supply-chain security initiative, but the first 150 reviews of company follow-through indicates that some are doing more than originally promised to ensure strong security methodologies and internal controls are in place, both at their own operations and those of their suppliers and transportation providers, Goebel said at a sparsely attended seminar for import compliance managers in Washington.
To participate in C-TPAT, companies complete a security questionnaire for Customs and agree to develop programs to enhance security throughout their supply chains. Customs agrees to provide C-TPAT participants with faster cargo clearances and fewer exams. The program is also open to transportation intermediaries, carriers, port authorities, marine terminal operators, and is expanding to include manufacturers. Customs uses a validation program to identify weaknesses and improvements in corporate supply chains.
Goebel said large companies are finding that C-TPAT is providing benefits beyond getting their cargo cleared faster at ports of entry. Security procedures put in place to meet C-TPAT standards are helping to reduce loss and pilferage of their products, which in turn, is helping companies get a break on their insurance rates.
The biggest incentive for companies to join C-TPAT, he said, is that it will serve to inoculate their goods in the event of another terrorist attack. The level of physical and x-ray inspections for containers and other incoming shipments likely will be ratcheted to extremely high levels in such a scenario, meaning cargo that does not have the C-TPAT security seal of approval will have to endure huge backlogs to get through the trade system.
“If you want your containers not to be allowed in the U.S. after the next terrorist attack then don’t join C-TPAT,” Goebel warned.