Is C-TPAT Certification Really Worth the Effort?

posted by Jennifer Diaz August 6, 2009 4 Comments

Jennifer Diaz, Florida Customs and International Trade LawyerMore and more importers/exporters are being stopped and shipments detained and even seized by CBP (U.S. Customs). Many feel they are being targeted by CBP, simply for the type of merchandise or because of the country with which they may be doing business.

While you would think that electronics would be the most sought after, the fact of the matter is that electronics is a small piece of the seizure pie, with the biggest piece going to footwear! Talk about picking a product and running with it!

However, regardless of the industry, the primary reason for detentions is IPR (intellectual property rights) violations. You see, whether its shoes or cell phones, foreign manufacturers need to adhere to CBP protocols, as do U.S. importers and exporters.

One way to make sure that all of your ducks are in a row is to the become C-TPAT certified. Benefits are such that importers are 4 to 6 times less likely to incur a security or compliance examination by CBP. That in and of itself is almost reason enough. It’s not a complicated process as long as you are not dealing with fly by night manufacturers, but it is a process nonetheless. Do your due diligence. It’s fairly simple to confirm a licensing agreement. Most trademark and copyright holders have the pertinent contact information online. You could apply yourself, but it’s a little more involved than just that. You need to provide not only the manufacturer information, but also information on who ships your merchandise, how it’s packed and shipped, as well as information regarding your own company, such as security, HR, IT and other background information.

The bottom line here is that if CBP knows who is manufacturing your goods, where it’s coming from, where it’s headed and how it’s getting there, then that’s half the battle. If CBP knows that you are dealing with legitimate manufacturers that are properly licensed to produce your merchandise and who’s shipping it, then that’s the other half and your battle may be won.  Think seriously about joining C-TPAT, and run with it.


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Jim Dickeson September 8, 2009 at 1:27 pm

I’m not seeing the connection between C-TPAT and IPR. C-TPAT is a security related program; IPR is trade compliance – two completely different functions and, I believe, two completely different communities of employees at CBP, and we all know how interdepartmentally disfunctional the government can be.

In fact, I recall the fine print years ago from CBP that being C-TPAT certified will only get an importer a reduction in security related exams, not trade compliance exams.

If you typically have 10% or your shipments examined, and of those, only 10% are security related, and becoming C-TPAT gets you a 10% reduction in THAT, then 10% of 10% of 10% would be a 0.1% reduction. That’s one container in a thousand. So getting back to the question in your title, which is really what caught my eye, “Is C-TPAT crtification realy worth the effort?” I think not.

Peter Quinter September 9, 2009 at 10:20 am

CBP posted a Cost/Benefit Survey in 2007, and it is on the CBP website among the other C-TPAT information. The survey, which admittedly is self-serving for CBP, has a “benefits for importers” section. It appears that cargo exams were significantly reduced for C-TPAT members.

CBP believes that many counterfeiters are also involved in money laundering and drug trafficking, so “security related programs” and “IPR trade compliance” are connected using CBP’s risk based analysis in determining which containers to target for examination.

I appreciate your comment.

Peter J. Rozdilsky March 4, 2010 at 4:46 pm


What would the benefits or reason that a transportation company that moves bulk containers to and from the port be for joining C-tpat?

Peter Quinter

s.d. monty October 14, 2010 at 4:55 pm



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