The U.S. Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (CTPAT) Program: How to Make it Work for You

1. We’re The U.S. Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (CTPAT) Program and We’re Here to Help

In this time of fragmented production strategies and far-flung supply chains, importing can be fraught with uncertainty, inefficiency, and risk. Add to this the disruptive effects of an exponential increase in trade volume, a multi-year pandemic, an overheated enforcement environment, plus what feels like a never-ending stream of natural disasters, and all of a sudden inbound shipments to the United States are taking longer to clear, facing greater scrutiny, and incurring more costs. This hurts the profitability and competitiveness of importers and ultimately makes goods more expensive for consumers.

One step importers can take to counter these developments is to become a certified member of the U.S. Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (CTPAT) Program.

Borne of the U.S. government’s post-9/11 recognition of the security vulnerabilities posed by the cross-border movement of merchandise, the CTPAT program incentivizes members of the trade community to voluntarily enter into collaborative partnerships with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for the purpose of strengthening supply chain and border security.

2. How The U.S. Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (CTPAT) Program Makes Things Easier For You

In exchange for a company’s formal and sustained commitment to assess, shore up, and certify the integrity of its supply chain security policies and practices, CBP deems program participants to be partners who pose a low security risk. The attainment of partner status is significant insofar as it opens, in accordance with the level of certification attained, the door to a valuable series of benefits, the most important of which include the following:

  • Reduced examination rates
  • Front of the line processing (if examined)
  • Stratified exam exemptions (Tier II and Tier III partners only)
  • Access to FAST lanes for expedited border crossings (highway carrier partners only)
  • Prioritized consideration at the Centers of Excellence and Expertise (CEEs)
  • Business resumption prioritization in the event of a disruption or delay in CBP cargo processing operations
  • Penalty mitigation (for sea carrier partners in connection with the late submission of ISF data)
  • Dedicated access to a supply chain security specialist (SCSS)
  • Eligibility to participate in other programs including, for example, the CTPAT Trade Compliance Program (formerly ISA), the Food and Drug Administration’s Secure Supply Chain Pilot Program, etc.
  • Mutual recognition of benefits where CBP has entered into a bilateral agreement with the customs administration of a foreign country regarding the compatibility of cargo security requirements, standards, and verification procedures (Mutual Recognition Agreements are currently in place with New Zealand, Canada, Jordan, Japan, Korea, European Union, Taiwan, Israel, Mexico, Singapore, Dominican Republic, Peru, the United Kingdom, and India).

These benefits enable program participants to conserve scarce temporal and financial resources (by accelerating clearances, minimizing business disruptions, and lowering risk scores), reduce losses associated with cargo theft, tampering, or damage, preserve existing business relationships (to the extent a customer requires CTPAT-certified partners) and demonstrate reasonable care.

There are, at present, approximately 11,500 certified importers, exporters, brokers, carriers, consolidators, port operators, third party logistics (3PLs), and foreign manufacturers in the U.S. Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (CTPAT) program. CTPAT-certified importers are estimated to account for over one-half the value of all merchandise imported into the U.S. The efficiencies made possible by the program, considered in conjunction with the tendencies noted above, portend a growing number of program participants. If the prospect of reduced scrutiny and faster clearances for imported merchandise is appealing (and why would it not be?), the CTPAT program is likely a good fit for your business.