The Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism, better known as CTPAT, has a new logo, a red, white, and blue globe made of interlocking puzzle pieces. It has new spelling, with no hyphen in its name or acronym anymore, and a new tag line: "Your Supply Chain's Strongest Link." But that's not all that's new with the cargo-security program, according to Liz Schmelzinger, director of CTPAT programs in U.S. Customs and Border Protection's (CBP's) Office of Field Operations.
CTPAT, established in 2001 to prevent terrorists from carrying out attacks on the United States via international transportation networks, is a voluntary public-private program with 11,000-plus members, including importers, exporters, surface carriers (ocean, highway, and rail), customs brokers, marine terminal operators, freight consolidators, and other entities that have a stake in cross-border cargo security. To be accepted as "CTPAT Partners," members work with CBP to identify security gaps and implement specific security measures and best practices; they must then undergo periodic audits to verify compliance. Partners are considered low-risk and are eligible for such benefits as fewer CBP cargo examinations and priority treatment at border crossings. Schmelzinger outlined some recent developments and future plans at the 16th Annual Northeast Cargo Symposium held by the Coalition of New England Companies for Trade (CONECT) in Providence, R.I., earlier this month. She has asked her team to revamp CTPAT's best practices recommendations, shifting from a catalog of specific actions to a framework that could be adapted to companies of all sizes. About 30 percent of CTPAT members are small and medium-size companies with 70 employees or less, she said, noting that what would be achievable and affordable for a large company may not be for a smaller firm. "The notion of scalability will be critical to the best practices framework," she said.
The new framework, which is still in development, will include five elements:
1. Senior management support, including the participating organization's culture and management philosophy regarding security and compliance
2. Innovative application of technology, as appropriate for the company's size and resources
3. Documented processes, including consistency and continuity over time
4. Checks, balances, and auditing, including such areas as accountability and testing
5. Evidence of implementation; that is, proof that plans have been put into practice and are being maintained
Similar topics are covered by CBP's current best practices documents, but those largely consist of examples of specific practices and policies CBP auditors have seen during CTPAT assessments.
Among the other developments Schmelzinger discussed:
Schmelzinger was also asked about CBP's plans to extend CTPAT to exports. "We're not there yet," she said, adding that although it's still on CBP's agenda, there are "not enough resources right now" to make it a priority.