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Op-Ed: Partnering to boost int’l supply chain security

Author Jeffrey Quiñones is public affairs officer for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office.

Author Jeffrey Quiñones is public affairs officer for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office.

Local news outlets have highlighted three consecutive incidents in which cargo filled containers were stolen from warehouses and facilities, later to be found empty at a remote location on the island.

Many other dispatches have stressed how law enforcement has found duffle bags, containing cocaine or heroin, inside containers arriving at the port. For the trade community, whose main goal is to conduct legitimate international trade, these types of events become an uncomfortable and costly disruption.

With economic globalization and trade, the threat of terrorism and transnational organized crime has grown and modern businesses engaged in international trade are in many cases exploited unexpectedly. Criminal organizations seek to use the supply chain as a means to conceal and move illicit goods.

The present-day environment demonstrates that “organized crime has diversified, gone global and reached macro-economic proportions: illicit goods are sourced from one continent, trafficked across another, and marketed in a third.”

Exploitation appears to occur, in most cases, as the product of:

  • Management doesn’t ensure that employees are following their own security procedures;
  • The company and employees are not aware of the risks they encourage by having poor security practices;
  • Pattern of pushing responsibility for security to “others.”

Even with this prospect, many businesses still consider security as a much-maligned cost instead of an indispensable investment.

Conscious of these circumstances, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) instituted the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT.) C-TPAT is a voluntary public-private sector partnership program which recognizes that CBP can provide the highest level of cargo security only through close cooperation with the principle stakeholders of the international supply chain such as importers, carriers, consolidators, licensed customs brokers, and manufacturers.

The C-TPAT program supports the National Strategy for Global Supply Chain Security by promoting the efficient and secure movement of legitimate goods and by fostering a global supply chain system that is resilient to natural as well as man-made disruptions.

Since its inception in November 2001, C-TPAT partners have worked cooperatively with CBP to protect their supply chains from the introduction of all types of contraband, and global supply chains are more secure today as a result of the program. In exchange, CBP provides partners reduced inspections at the port of arrival, expedited processing at the border, and other significant benefits, such as “front of the line” inspections and penalty mitigation. Today, more than 10,000 certified partners that span the gamut of the trade community have been accepted into the program

By extending the United States’ zone of security to the point of origin, the customs‐trade partnership allows for better risk assessment and targeting, freeing CBP to allocate inspectional resources to more questionable shipments. When they join the anti‐terror partnership, companies sign an agreement to work with CBP to protect the supply chain, identify security gaps, and implement specific security measures and best practices.

Additionally, partners provide CBP with a security profile outlining the specific security measures the company has in place. Applicants must address a broad range of security topics and present security profiles that list action plans to align security throughout their supply chain.

C‐TPAT members are considered low‐risk and are therefore less likely to be examined. This designation is based on a company’s past compliance history, security profile, and the validation of a sample international supply chain. The starting point for partners to develop and employ effective security practices. It is the responsibility of the member to study their supply chain(s), assess the risk, and develop security controls to deal with those risks.

“C-TPAT criteria is designed to optimize supply chain performance to reduce the possibility of a security breach,” said Juan Hurtado, CBP’s San Juan area port director. “With strong supply chain security measures reduce theft, loss, and smuggling.”

C-TPAT works in partnership with the trade community to leverage corporate influence throughout the international supply chain and beyond the regulatory reach of the U.S. government. Enrollment into the program is open to the following business sectors:

  • U.S. Importers of Record
  • Sea and Air Carriers
  • U.S. Marine Port Authority/Terminal Operators
  • Manufacturers
  • Licensed U.S. Customs Brokers
  • Third Party Logistics Providers
  • Consolidators/NVOCC

C-TPAT operates in a cooperative effort with other government agencies such as the Transportation Security Administration, the Food and Drug Administration, and the U.S. Coast Guard, to align security requirements and maximize efforts to facilitate the movement of legitimate cargo. C-TPAT also promotes the internationalization of security based industry partnership programs with other trading partners and with foreign customs administrations.

For detailed information regarding C-TPAT and the application process, please visit us at www.cbp.gov/ctpat.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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