Is C-TPAT Running Out of Steam?

December 19, 2013


“C-TPAT” is an anti-terrorism partnership program run by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”).  The program, which is voluntary, is open to importers, carriers, customs brokers and others in the international supply chain.  It was first introduced by Customs at the November 2001 Trade Symposium and opened to its first participants in April 2002 as a way to prevent containerized cargo from being used to introduce terrorist weapons into the United States.  (For more information on the C-TPAT program, including benefits, go to:

The program is said to have over 10,000 certified partners, but the question is whether the program is now running out of steam.  Recent statistics published by CBP (December 2, 2013) would suggest that there may be waning interest in the program. 

To be a C-TPAT participant, the importer or other entity must adopt and provide evidence that it has met rigorous supply chain security criteria published by CBP and that the program extends throughout its supply chain.  (Program requirements can be found at: ) Before an entity may be accepted into the C-TPAT program, the existence of the program is validated by CBP supply chain specialists, and existing participants are re-validated on a periodic basis.

CBP has said that there are 167 CBP supply chain specialists and others staffing the program.

By the Numbers

There are currently 10,692 - certified partners.  Of these:

  • Importers – 4,332
  • Carriers – 3,142 (all types: Vessel, Rail, Truck and Air)
  • Brokers - 856
  • Foreign Manufacturers – 1,358 (Canada and Mexico)
  • Consolidators/3PLs - 944
  • Marine Port Authorities & Terminal Operators – 60 

Of the 4,332 importers, only 335 have reached the coveted status of a “C-TPAT Tier 3 Importer.”

Number of Completed Supply Chain Security Validations by Year

In 2012, there were 640 Initial Validations and 1,736 Revalidations for a total of 2,376 validations.

In 2013, there were 480 Initial Validations and 1,312 Revalidations for a total of 1,792 validations.

Additionally, CBP reports that there have been 1,745 total suspensions and 1,264 total removals from the program.

A company can or will be removed from the program if it fails to maintain an acceptable supply chain security program and resources, or fails to adopt supply chain security program improvement recommendations by CBP supply chain specialists.  Parties may also be removed from the program for breaches in its supply chain security (i.e., drugs and other contraband found in containers).

Further Program Initiatives

CBP now has seven Mutual Recognition Arrangements with New Zealand, Canada, Jordan, Japan, Korea, the European Union, and Taiwan.

There are five Mutual Recognition Projects that are underway.  These include Singapore, Israel, China, Mexico, and Switzerland.

CBP is also engaged in 12 Technical Assistance Projects with Malaysia, Philippines, Guatemala, Colombia, Peru, Vietnam, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, India, Brazil, Jamaica, and Turkey.

Under the Mutual Recognition Program, CBP will not have to engage in foreign verifications of supply chain security programs of exporters to the United States from countries that have a mutual recognition program with the United States.

What’s New:  The Trusted Trader Program

CBP is working to combine the current Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) and Importer Self-Assessment (ISA) processes (for more information on ISA, go to: into what it calls the Trusted Trader Program.  According to CBP, this will enable it to provide additional incentives to participating low-risk partners, while benefiting from the added efficiencies of managing supply chain and trade compliance within one partnership program.

In consultation with the Trusted Trader working group and the COAC subcommittee, CBP is drafting the Trusted Trader Implementation Plan for Phase I implementation of Trusted Trader.  CBP is targeting the implementation of Phase I of the Trusted Trader framework to begin by the end of FY13 (October 31).

CBP is also looking to develop a unified, automated application process, trade information, and tracking system within the existing C‑TPAT Portal 2.0 development schedule for both ISA and C‑TPAT applicants.

Another goal of CBP in the implementation of its Trusted Trader Program is the expansion of it C‑TPAT program to exporters, and the creation of Minimum Security Criteria/AEO program which will afford US Exports AEO status.

CBP is also looking at the feasibility of expanding C-TPAT to include domestic transportation hubs, and further expanding the program to additional Foreign Manufacturers, Foreign Trade Zones, and how to leverage the use of Partner Government Agency programs.

If you have any questions about these or other customs matters, please contact George R. Tuttle III at or at (415) 986-8780.

George Tuttle III is an attorney with the Law Offices of George R. Tuttle in San Francisco.

The information in this article is general in nature, and is not intended to constitute legal advice or to create an attorney-client relationship with respect to any event or occurrence, and may not be considered as such.

Copyright © 2013 by Tuttle Law Offices.

All rights reserved.  Information has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable.  However, because of the possibility of human or mechanical error by our offices or by others, we do not guarantee the accuracy, adequacy, or completeness of any information and are not responsible for any errors, omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of such information.



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