CTPAT Compliance: Everything You Need to Know

by Vector | Mar 16, 2021 7:06:08 AM


It’s easy to think of fighting terrorism as someone else’s job. After all, it’s a task left to law enforcement or the military. Unless you’re in either profession, why should it matter to you?

But the fact is that all Americans share a responsibility to protect the country against terrorism and criminal activity. Believe it or not, this includes shipping companies. 

In fact, one of the best ways to get involved in the fight against terrorism is to participate in the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (CTPAT) program. 

If you’re looking to learn more about the CTPAT program, you’ve come to the right place. This post explores what CTPAT is, why it’s important, what the benefits of becoming CTPAT compliant are, and how your organization can get involved. 

What Is CTPAT, and Why Does It Matter?

The United States depends almost entirely on its numerous supply chains to function. Unfortunately, without a safe and efficient system for moving goods from international and domestic suppliers to warehouses and then to businesses and consumers, the country simply wouldn't be able to operate.

Unfortunately, the U.S. supply chain is under constant threat from terrorism, piracy, theft, and interference. It's therefore in every organization’s best interest to work together to detect, report, and eliminate threats before they cause harm to businesses or citizens—or affect supply chain movement.

CTPAT is a voluntary program managed by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). It focuses on improving private organizations’ supply chains and preventing terrorist activities to ensure the economy keeps humming along.

CTPAT launched in November 2001, shortly after the devastating September 11 attacks. Since then, the program has grown from having just a handful of participating companies to more than 11,400 certified partners. 

How CTPAT Works 

After signing up for CTPAT, the organization must agree to work with CBP in its mission to protect the U.S. border. This includes:

  • identifying security gaps
  • securing the overall supply chain
  • implementing various security measures the CBP has set

The CBP asks applicants to address a range of security topics. It also wants them to demonstrate action plans in order to maintain security across their greater supply chain.

Should Your Organization Become CTPAT Compliant?

It’s important to remember that the CTPAT is a voluntary organization. You don’t have to become CTPAT compliant. What’s more, bypassing this program won't lead to any direct harm or loss of funding for your organization. Joining or not is completely up to you.

That said, there are a number of benefits that come with becoming CTPAT compliant. For this reason, all eligible organizations should strongly consider going through the process.

Why Do Companies Achieve CTPAT Compliance?

By becoming CTPAT compliant, an organization makes a voluntary effort to protect the U.S. border. The organization also commits to combat terrorism and nefarious activity that threatens operational stability to partner organizations, infrastructure, and the general public. 

Companies that take part in the program can take pride in being part of a large-scale security network that helps protect the country from persistent and dangerous threats. 

In exchange for supporting their initiative, the CBP classifies members as low risk. As a result, members receive more leeway. It's similar to how the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) gives screened PreCheck members greater freedom to move through security.

The Benefits of CTPAT Compliance

So, not only are you doing a good deed when you join the program, there’s also something in it for you. With that in mind, here are some benefits to becoming CTPAT compliant:

  • Reduced CBP examinations 
  • Priority inspections and shorter wait times 
  • The possibility of being exempted from Stratified Exams made by U.S. Customs
  • An assigned Supply Chain Security Specialist 
  • Free and Secure Trade (FAST) Lane access at land borders 
  • CTPAT web portal access 
  • Access to special training materials 
  • Trusted trade partner status, which can be useful when working with foreign customs administrations 
  • Priority consideration at CBP-focused Centers of Excellence and Expertise 
  • Business resumption priority after terrorist attacks or natural disasters 
  • Eligibility to participate in Importer Self-Assessment Program (ISA)
  • Eligibility for other U.S. government pilot programs

As you can see, taking the time to go through the CTPAT process helps strengthen and protect the country. And it also provides significant benefits for members. 

The program can give you a competitive edge, enabling your organization to move faster through security checkpoints. Faster checkpoints result in delivering items more efficiently to customers and reducing wait times. It can also eliminate time spent sitting in traffic while reducing vehicle wear and tear, lowering gasoline costs, and helping reduce carbon emissions. 

What’s not to like?

Also, companies can receive priority for business resumption after natural disasters or terrorist attacks. In other words, low-risk member companies can get back to work faster than non-member organizations in the event a tragedy strikes.

How to Become CTPAT Compliant

One of the best parts about CTPAT compliance is that there's no cost for organizations to join the program. 

The application process isn't long. Also, it doesn't require an intermediary, according to the CBP. And what's more, it's available online; check it out here

Next, here's a breakdown of how to become CTPAT compliant.

1. Review Eligibility Requirements 

First things first: Review the CTPAT Minimum Security Criteria guide, which provides information about program eligibility. 

There are 12 types of business entities that are eligible for CTPAT membership. These include: air carriers, consolidators, customs brokers, exporters, foreign manufacturers, highway carriers, importers, long-haul carriers in Mexico, marine port authority and terminal operators, rail carriers, sea carriers, and third-party logistics (3PL) providers. 

2. Submit an Application

Next, submit an application through the CTPAT portal and agree to participate voluntarily in the program. 

3. Complete a Security Profile

After that, read the CBP’s Five-Step Risk Assessment Guide and complete a risk assessment. Then, complete a supply chain security profile, explaining how your organization is meeting CTPAT’s minimum security requirements. 

After you complete the CTPAT application process, a CTPAT Supply Chain Security Specialist will then come by to complete the review. According to the CBP, this individual can also provide ongoing guidance and support. Don’t be afraid to ask them any questions; they’re there to help. 

The CBP then has 90 days to certify your company or reject your application. Program validation will happen within a year of certification.

Achieving Compliance Through Digitalization 

According to the CBP, the CTPAT program isn't designed to be a “one size fits all” model. Rather, each company must decide based on its risk assessment how to implement and maintain procedural security. 

What’s more, the CTPAT recognizes that supply chain technologies are evolving. Therefore, it encourages the use of digital technologies to document required procedures.

Organizations are therefore highly encouraged to digitize documents—such as inspection reports, checklists, inventory logs, shipping manifests, and bills of lading—to demonstrate CTPAT compliance and share information with the CBP. 

Digitizing documentation is a faster, easier, and more organized way to compile and share information. It also shows a commitment to security and sustainability. Why? Because it lets companies avoid the use of paper-based documentation mechanisms.

How Vector Can Help Streamline CTPAT Compliance 

Vector can streamline all aspects of CTPAT compliance. This makes it possible to digitize key supply chain documents related to supply chain processes. 

With Vector, companies can compile all critical information in secure, shareable, cloud-based mobile apps. Vector’s apps can eliminate reporting errors and speed up communication when working with federal teams. And that makes it easier to maintain CTPAT compliance at every turn.

Want more information? Get started with Vector today.

This post was written by Justin Reynolds. Justin is a freelance writer who enjoys telling stories about how technology, science, and creativity can help workers be more productive. In his spare time, he likes seeing or playing live music, hiking, and traveling.

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