Since 2008 I’ve assisted more than 100 companies with C-TPAT certification, compliance, training, validation and suspension removal. You would think if anyone should know the benefits of C-TPAT it would be me.
But I recently discovered a hidden reason that I wasn’t aware of before now.
Anyone familiar with C-TPAT knows that most of the benefits go to the importer. C-TPAT certified importers should experience fewer container inspections upon arrival in the US and faster, preferential processing in the port. Fewer inspections means lower costs, because the importers are required to pay for the inspections. And most companies derive some value for getting their cargo through customs and out of the port sooner. Also, if the importer wishes to sell their products to many of the largest US retailers and manufacturers, C-TPAT certification may be mandatory in order to do business with them. C-TPAT certification is also a prerequisite for importers that would like to participate in the Importer self assessment (ISA) program.
Highway carriers have their own benefits, such as preferential (expedited) treatment at border crossings and eligibility to participate in the FAST program.
Other C-TPAT eligible business entities, such as consolidator, NVOCCs, OTIs and licensed US Customs Brokers are usually driven to participate in C-TPAT by the threat of losing business or the prospect of gaining more customers. This is because many C-TPAT certified companies will only use other C-TPAT business partners in their supply chains. C-TPAT certified companies aren’t prohibited from using non-C-TPAT certified business partners, it’s just that the screening process is much more difficult and time-consuming if the business partner isn’t also certified.
But I’ve recently discovered something that had never occurred to me before. I’ve been contacted recently by 3 different importers with the same basic story. In each case these importers were finding their containers stuck in US ports for 12, 15 and even 17 days. The reason? Their cargo was waiting in line behind cargo from C-TPAT certified importers. In these cases, before US Customs got around to clearing their container another ship came in and the C-TPAT containers from that ship went to the front of the line. So the non-C-TPAT certified importer’s container had to wait again. This happened to one of these guys 4 times! This guy was beside himself. He felt like he had to get C-TPAT certified as a matter of self-defense.
I only see this problem getting worse as more and more importers become C-TPAT certified. I guess the only way to know for sure is to wait and see.