Border Security Starts With Cargo
Border Security Starts With Cargo

Paul Rothman

Access Control & Security Systems, Feb 1, 2003

A recent development in cargo security along U.S. borders is the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism, or the C-TPAT, a program to track shipments coming into the U.S. "This is the next leg in building a comprehensive system to prevent terrorist infiltration of the global trading system," says U.S. Customs Service Commissioner Robert C. Bonner.

Participating in the program offers benefits for companies around the world. It allows for safer and quicker crossing of borders for important shipments C-TPAT members undergo reduced inspections at borders because they are registered in a central database. Customs also assigns an account manager to each company.

Essentially, the C-TPAT is a way for companies to be self-policing and to benefit under the umbrella of greater federal security.

"It gives companies a chance to fight terrorism," says Barry Wilkins, director of transportation and supply chain security for Pinkerton. "No company wants it to be their container in the news as doing something damaging to a port or city."

So far, 1,600 companies have volunteered to participate in the program. Choosing not to volunteer may cause even more headaches for managers. By not volunteering, an importer would be shifted into an "unknown" security category, which means significantly increased scrutiny of cargo, audits, examinations and requests for information.

"While we're providing security at our borders, we do not want to choke off the flow of commerce to achieve security," Bonner says. "Customs can't succeed in protecting our country without the help and the participation of the business community."

In order to join the program, companies are required to:

  • conduct a comprehensive self assessment of supply chain security;

  • submit a supply chain security questionnaire to Customs;

  • develop and implement a program to enhance security throughout the supply chain; and

  • communicate C-TPAT guidelines to other companies in the supply chain.

Customs has also announced the program will be extended to the ports themselves in order to foster mutual cooperation.

For more information on the program, visit

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