Why Your Freight Forwarder Should Be C-TPAT Certified
If you are an importer, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) arguably has the biggest impact on your business, short of your customers. The CBP plays a major role in the trade industry, enforcing the rules and regulations for international trade into the U.S. This includes collecting duties and taxes, and ensuring dangerous or suspect cargo doesn’t come into the country. They also focus on protecting international supply chains and cargo from global threats, such as terrorism.
What Is C-TPAT?
Protecting the trade industry from terrorism is one of many jobs CBP undertakes, which means it can be difficult for them to focus resources where they’re needed most. To help better utilize their resources, CBP created C-TPAT, the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism. C-TPAT is a voluntary program that any business or freight forwarding company in the trade industry can join to help “strengthen international supply chains and improve United States border security,” according to CBP. Since its inception in 2001, 10,000 companies have become C-TPAT certified.
Why Become C-TPAT Certified?
Joining the program provides several benefits for businesses, helps them better protect their supply chains, and it is free to join. However, there is an indirect cost for the time it takes to prepare and apply. The good news is that by working with a C-TPAT certified freight forwarding company, you can both help with combating terrorism, as well as enjoy the benefits that come with certification.
The Criteria a Certified Freight Forwarder Must Meet
If you chose to become C-TPAT certified, there are several benefits that can positively impact your business. Those include fewer CBP examinations and shorter wait times at the border. You can find a full list of C-TPAT benefits at the CBP website.
If you are not C-TPAT certified business, working with a freight forwarding company that is certified won’t allow you to access to the list benefits above. However, you can still benefit from the C-TPAT security criteria that a freight forwarder must implement to become certified. These safety and security measures cover a wide variety of areas, and include:
A freight forwarder screens third-party partners and ensures they follow standards: Most freight forwarding companies work with third-party partners, both foreign and domestic. These partners include ocean carriers, customs brokers, foreign consolidators and more, all of whom must follow certain security guidelines as well. It’s the freight forwarder’s responsibility to comply with CBP standards and periodically review those standards to ensure they remain compliant.
A freight forwarder manages all aspects of cargo handling and the logistics of the shipment: Either by themselves or working with certified partners, an ocean freight forwarder must handle cargo from the point it’s loaded into a container to when it arrives in the United States. They also handle all of the logistics of moving your cargo from its origin port to its destination port, including consolidation/deconsolidation, warehouse storage, and working with certified ocean freight carriers.
A freight forwarder ensures their (or their third-party partners’) warehouse facilities, containers and other equipment conform to standards: You may not spend a lot of time thinking about container integrity and security, or lighting and fencing around warehouses. CBP asks that freight forwarders and their third-party partners do consider these things. International freight forwarders, if they own or have warehouses they work with, must ensure they meet standards.
This consideration includes ensuring containers are physically secure and follow CBP guidelines when they are sealed. Cargo storage warehouses must have sufficient lighting, fences, and locks on all applicable doors and gates. Employees who work at these facilities should only have access to these areas if it pertains to their job duties.
A freight forwarder must file all documentation and procedures correctly: Any issues with documentation can lead to delays at customs, and your freight forwarder should work with you to be certain everything is in order before your cargo reaches port. All documentation needs to be filed correctly and be delivered promptly to customs. A freight forwarder must also ensure that they and their partners have cargo manifests that match what is in a container and resolve any issues with the documentation without delay.
All this is just a fraction of what C-TPAT expects from a certified freight forwarder. Learn more about the various requirements at the CBP website.
The Benefits of a C-TPAT Certified Freight Forwarder For Your Business
Meeting the safety and security criteria to become C-TPAT certified means a freight forwarder is serious about combating terrorism threats. An international freight forwarder that becomes certified also regularly opens their offices and facilities to CBP officials to ensure their procedures and policies continue to meet or exceed the Minimum Security Criteria. If you partner with a certified freight forwarder in Los Angeles or Long Beach, you’ll have the peace of mind knowing your cargo receives the highest standards of handling.
The biggest benefit for your business, of course, is that all those safety and security measures apply to your shipments. Your cargo will be packaged, shipped, and stored according to CBP standards – which can decrease the risk of any delays with customs or searches. You’ll also know you are working with a company that went the extra mile to combat terrorism by adhering to the procedures and standards set by the CBP.