Third C-TPAT draft spells out importer checks on foreign suppliers
U.S. importers will need to verify that overseas suppliers and transportation providers have appropriate security procedures in place to prevent a terrorist weapon being inserted in a shipping container, but will not be required to distribute a security questionnaire to their vendors, under the latest iteration of revised criteria for participation in the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism.
The dropping of the security questionnaire as a mandatory step for members of the voluntary trusted shipper program is the biggest change between the second and third drafts of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s new C-TPAT security criteria.
CBP is under pressure to put teeth in the program so that companies that sign up follow through on promises to tighten supply chain security procedures in exchange for fewer cargo exams and other benefits.
The third draft, a copy of which was obtained by Shipper’s NewsWire, instructs importers to require business partners “not already C-TPAT certified, to demonstrate that they are meeting C-TPAT security criteria via written/electronic confirmation (e.g., contractual obligations; via a letter from a senior business partner officer attesting to compliance; a written statement from the business partner demonstrating their participation in C-TPAT or an equivalent (World Customs Organization) accredited security program administered by a foreign customs authority; or, by providing a completed importer security questionnaire).”
The document raises questions again about how importers, without clear instructions, are supposed to go about vetting their overseas suppliers.
According to the draft document, which was distributed to a select group of importers and trade associations Friday, importers would be required to follow-up and verify a vendor’s compliance. Such a process would help identify if the business partner outsources part of its own production or transportation and push C-TPAT criteria down to the original service provider.
CBP has requested organizations that received the draft submit their feedback by Friday, according to an industry source.
The document also does not address the question of importer liability, an issue raised by the National Industrial Transportation League in its comments to CBP on the second draft in early December. The freight group expressed its concern that C-TPAT members could be held liable to mandatory standards in the event of an incident outside their control.