CBP Mandates Use of Security Link Portal by C-TPAT Participants

International Alert
04.28.06

In the flurry of new security-related administrative and legislative activity this Spring, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) has announced new mandatory requirements for participation in C-TPAT, the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism. By July 1, all importers and carriers (regardless of mode of transportation), who participate or wish to participate in C-TPAT will be required to use a new Internet Application and Communications Portal (the “Security Link Portal”). Other participants, such as port authorities, foreign manufacturers, and licensed brokers, face a deadline of August 1. According to CBP, current C-TPAT participants that fail to provide updated security information through this new online link will be deemed to have withdrawn from the program and will lose all C-TPAT benefits. In connection with this change, CBP has suspended the acceptance of all new C-TPAT applications until the new online portal becomes operational next month.

The Security Link Portal reflects CBP’s efforts to ensure that all C-TPAT related company information on file with the agency is accurate and complete. C-TPAT participants and certified members will be required to enter, update, and maintain several key fields of information which CBP plans to use to assist in the verification of program eligibility. This includes the posting of the current C-TPAT Supply Chain Security Profile and business profile information.

The Security Link Portal is also intended to offer C-TPAT participants a direct and secure communications channel with C-TPAT personnel at the agency, and to facilitate CBP’s dissemination of cargo security alerts and sanitized intelligence information to C-TPAT participants.

As noted, any company that fails to meet online participation deadlines will lose all C-TPAT benefits, such as reduced or expedited CBP exam processing and access to the Free and Secure Trade (“FAST”) lane. The company’s C-TPAT approval would be considered withdrawn, and it would be required to re-apply for admission online. Given these consequences, C-TPAT participants should make sure to check the CBP website periodically during May, when CBP will provide instructions and the necessary URL for updating company profiles online.

Since CBP has suspended its acceptance of new C-TPAT applications, it has also removed its application instructions from the CBP website. Any company seeking guidance on preparing an application should refer to the security criteria and security guidelines that describe specific C-TPAT admission criteria for importers, sea carriers, highway carriers, rail carriers, customs brokers, NVOCCs, and foreign manufacturers. Although they are substantially similar to CBP’s former application instructions, the security criteria and guidelines merit close attention by any company planning to submit an application to the C-TPAT program in the coming months. Indeed, the guidelines for customs brokers and foreign manufacturers include onerous penalties including fines, penalties and criminal charges if the applicant submits false information or conceals material facts.

While C-TPAT remains a “voluntary” program, CBP’s imposition of new procedural requirements on C-TPAT applicants and participants reflects the recent trend toward increasing the number and rigor of C-TPAT requirements for those companies that do choose to participate. Congress is also getting involved, and is currently considering several significant proposals relating to C-TPAT and other security initiatives (described in our International Alert of March 27, 2006). Importers and other members of the trade community should monitor not only these latest C-TPAT program developments, but also the wide range of new cargo security requirements that may take effect in the coming months.

For further information, please contact:

Richard Abbey, rabbey@milchev.com, 202-626-5901

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