The U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has a message for non-asset-based third-party logistics service providers (3PLs) that want to join the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT): Prove you belong.
Effective Jan. 1, 3PLs will not be considered for C-TPAT participation if they do not own aircraft, warehouses, vehicles, or other transportation assets. Entities that only provide services in domestic commerce will also be excluded. The reason, CBP says, is that those companies are "unable to enhance supply chain security throughout the international supply chain" and thus do not qualify for C-TPAT enrollment. (Under C-TPAT, companies submit plans to CBP that show they have tight security measures in place throughout their supply chains. Those that pass an audit of their security standards and procedures receive expedited clearance for cargo entering U.S. commerce.)
As part of the implementation process, CBP has launched an online "C-TPAT enrollment sector" that gives 3PLs an opportunity to demonstrate that they meet the criteria for acceptance into the program. Each applicant must pass an initial review. After it clears that hurdle, it must then undergo a second and more rigorous screening to determine if it passes muster.
Those eligibility requirements, issued last September, are considered the bare minimum for entry into C-TPAT, CBP says. Aside from showing they own or manage assets and engage in international commerce, 3PLs must prove they are licensed or bonded by the Department of Transportation, the Federal Maritime Commission, the Transportation Security Administration, or CBP. They must also maintain a staffed office in the United States, and they cannot contract out a service if the contractor plans to outsource that work to a non- C-TPAT member.
None of this sits well with 3PLs, who believe CBP's eligibility requirements are discriminatory and run counter to C-TPAT's mission of strengthening supply chain security. John Stirrup, vice president, policy and government affairs for the Transportation Intermediaries Association, says his group is concerned that its members who engage in international commerce may be excluded because they don't own or manage any assets. Stirrup says TIA has repeatedly pleaded its case to CBP, only to be rebuffed.
CBP says that C-TPAT's eligibility requirements are consistent with the agency's need to focus on what it calls the "two most vulnerable nodes" in the global supply chain: the point where a container is stuffed, and the journey from the stuffing location to the departure port or airport. The agency also says it must balance safeguarding the supply chain with the need to avoid duplicating existing security efforts. Part of this balancing act involves identifying and, if necessary, excluding companies that can't prove they own or manage assets or engage in international trade.
"What we are looking to do is exclude people who have two desks, a phone, and a computer and want to enroll in the program," says a source close to the agency. The agency directive will not affect those 3PLs currently enrolled in C-TPAT, the source says.