Canadian Plastics

A C-TPAT On the Back

By Jack Bradley, BA, CITT, P.MM   

The events of September 11th continue to manifest themselves in all that we do. Our commercial transactions are not exempt - nor should they be. In order to protect our borders and our homelands we al...

The events of September 11th continue to manifest themselves in all that we do. Our commercial transactions are not exempt – nor should they be. In order to protect our borders and our homelands we all must take an active role in limiting the access by terrorists to goods and information that can harm our lives. We all have become enlisted by our governments to be risk managers. Welcome C-TPAT, PIP, CSA, FAST, FDA, BTA and all such related programs.

When I first heard of C-TPAT (Customs – Trade Partnership against Terrorism), I immediately thought it was a program to watch and document high risk exporters and importers handling hazardous type products and the like. You know – stuff those terrorists would likely identify with and could tamper with to cause major damage. Well I was partially correct. Missing in the equation was that any product traveling by any means of transport at any time could be a terrorist target.

U.S. Customs believes it’s impossible to handle the entire risk management on its own so it has decided to enlist all of us in the process – the entire supply chain. Customs wants all shippers (exporters/importers), carriers, warehouses, manufacturers and suppliers to work together to limit the risk of terrorist activities in their environments.



C-TPAT is a joint government-business initiative to build cooperative relationships that strengthen overall supply chain and border security.

C-TPAT recognizes that Customs can provide the highest level of security only through close cooperation with the ultimate owners of the supply chain, importers, carriers, brokers, warehouse operators and manufacturers.

Through this initiative Customs is asking businesses to ensure the integrity of their security practices and communicate their security guidelines to their business partners within the supply chain.

If you want your goods traveling LTL or TL to get over the border quicker then you will need to embrace the C-TPAT initiative, (according to those preaching the new gospel). Shippers are telling their carriers to get approved so they don’t have their goods sitting, waiting for clearance, and upsetting their customers in the process. Several carriers have made the commitment and feel that the shipping public is slow to get on board. Carriers are telling shippers (importers of record) that they already have hours of service constraints so they better get C-TPAT approval or they might have to impose additional charges for the impending delays. All the while we have long waits at the border at the best of times.


It is often advisable to enlist those more knowledgeable in supply chain operations to help you in the application process and work with you to satisfy any perceived shortcomings in the areas customs defines as: procedural security, access controls, personal security, education/training, manifest procedures and product conveyance security. You will be asked to submit a detailed supply chain security profile questionnaire to U.S. Customs. Customs will review your submission and help you with any shortfalls in security and controls.

Don’t wait around for this program to go away. It has legs and many are getting on board early in the game (it’s already close to a few years old). If you have customers in the U.S. (and who doesn’t) and you want them to see the border as “seamless” as it always has been then you will have to get on board this program sooner rather than later. You cannot afford to use the border clearance as an excuse for delay in delivery. These customers will end up sourcing similar products more locally, (especially with their dollar not going as far as it did in early 2003). You must take a proactive approach to these customs initiatives and encourage your supply chain to do so as well.

Some of the benefits of C-TPAT participation will include a reduction in physical inspection of your goods saving transit time and associated costs. You will enjoy access to dedicated lanes and “priority” status at border crossings. You will also receive a list of approved C-TPAT members. And get a security inspection from the government, and recommendations to enhance your security procedures. Execution of the recom mendations is not necessarily mandatory for participation.

An applicant will be considered a C-TPAT Partner as soon as the application for certification has been submitted. The more you can demonstrate that your particular supply chain embraces the lowering of risk, the more you are likely to enjoy the full benefits of participation.


When sourcing new carriers, new warehouses or suppliers you will want to ask about their C-TPAT status. Customs officials like to see that you are embracing the program and encouraging others that you deal with to do so as well. Having good security and employee hiring practices just makes good sense. As companies we should always plan to make improvements in these areas. If you are not a direct exporter to the U.S. but someone in your supply chain is you will want to embrace these new customs initiatives. It will be a competitive advantage.

Investing in the security of your products and your employees is always a wise plan.

A “C-TPAT on the back” for your effort waits.


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