U.S. CUSTOMS READY TO RAMP UP C-TPAT VALIDATION PROGRAM
The Bureau of Customs and Border Protection said it would certify 15 companies for compliance with supply chain security guidelines under the initial phase of the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) program.
The certification is expected within two weeks, said Robert Perez, director of industry partnerships, said. Customs will begin visits in May to another 15 companies to make sure they have submitted accurate profiles about the reliability and effectiveness of their security programs.
The pace of validations will pick up with the addition of extra resources to the program, Perez said. A new cadre of 30 to 60 supply chain specialists is being hired and trained to augment the initial 10 security reviewers. Customs said expects to complete about 100 C-TPAT validations by the fall.
Customs officials may postpone scheduled validation visits to companies with operations in Hong Kong and other locations in Asia due to the outbreak of the deadly severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) until the threat subsides, Perez acknowledged.
At least 2,300 companies have signed up to participate in the voluntary C-TPAT program. 'A lot of members have met or exceeded our expectations' for internal security, Perez said.
In addition to the security review function, Customs views the program's on-site visits as a way to exchange information on best practices for increasing security while reducing friction at the borders.
COAC member Sandra Scott, advocate for customs and international trade at less-than-truckload carrier Roadway Express, said it is critical for Customs to give at least 30 days notice before a security visit.
Perez indicated that the first certificates were delayed because Congress took several extra months to pass an appropriations bill for the government's current fiscal year.
Effective container sealing is one component for maintaining a secure chain of custody during multiple hand-offs of cargo and Customs officials said they are developing a uniform standard for high security seals and how to identify if tampering has occurred. The Customs' policy will take into account recommendations from the Transportation Security Administration's Container Working Group and results from the Operation Safe Commerce pilot program, which is testing tracking of containers at sea and through intermodal transfers, said Jay Ahern, assistant commissioner for field operations.