U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Alan Bersin on Wednesday announced a goal to increase the number of firms that voluntarily participate in the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism from slightly more than 10,000 today to 40,000 within five years.
The security program is designed as a force multiplier to keep contraband and terrorist weapons out of import containers so that CBP doesn’t have to spend resources checking cargo in which it has a high-level of confidence. Shippers who implement approved security plans for their international supply chains are certified and their cargo on average is five times less likely to receive a non-intrusive imaging exam, depending on the tier of security they have achieved, according to CBP officials.
Other stated benefits include first-in-line treatment if a container must be X-rayed or physically searched. CBP has been challenged so far trying to communicate when that takes place so shippers understand the advantage they received.
C-TPAT has focused on precautions prior to arrival and needs to reward importers for meeting or exceeding shipment security standards by expediting cargo release and reducing paperwork requirements in the post-release stage, Bersin said during the annual Trade Symposium in Washington.
“It needs to be one continuum of focus,” Bersin said.
C-TPAT celebrated its 10th anniversary this year after starting with seven original importers in 2001.
“We recognize we need to provide positive incentives to achieve that goal,” Bersin said.
Last week, a CBP official suggested the Importer Self-Assessment, a sister program aimed at fostering trade compliance, is also a candidate for additional benefits to attract more companies. ISA allows companies with excellent track records of compliance and with sophisticated internal controls to self-assess their level of compliance each year. In exchange, participating companies are removed from CBP’s active pool of audit candidates and are generally exempt from regulatory audit activities.
ISA is widely considered undersubscribed given that only about 206 companies have signed up for the program. Trade professionals say the burden to participate is too high for the amount of benefits received.
“We think it’s a good deal and it’s going to be a better deal in the near future,” Brenda Brockman Smith, executive director for trade policy and programs, told delegates at the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America conference in Phoenix.