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Issue 18, 2007 (31 August)
 CBP Looks to Improve Cargo Security by Gathering More Data, Strengthening C-TPAT Criteria

Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff indicated on 16 August that the federal government intends to move forward quickly on obtaining additional data to further improve supply chain security, suggesting that this could be the best option for staving off efforts to impose mandates that could hinder the flow of trade. Chertoff said information is the key component of the layered strategy that U.S. Customs and Border Protection is using to manage the risks associated with cargo containers, noting that CBP is using information "as a substitute for the brute force of 100 percent physical inspection because the more information we have on a container, the less likely it is for us to have to waste a physical inspection, and that way, of course, we can reduce cost and delays."

CBP's strategy includes initiatives such as the Secure Freight Initiative, which includes the overseas scanning programme and the Security Filing or "10+2" proposal; the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism, along with the future recognition of authorised economic operators in potential mutual recognition systems; and the Container Security Initiative. "At the end of the day," Chertoff said, "we want to combine all of these systems to allow us to receive, process and act upon commercial information in a timely way so that we can target, in a very specific fashion, the suspect shipments without requiring us to materially slow up the supply chain or cause our ports of entry to become clogged up."

In addition, CBP is looking at ways to collect trade data "earlier and more comprehensively." Currently that effort is being pursued through the "10+2" initiative, which outlines the additional data elements CBP wants from importers and ocean carriers. A proposed rule on this issue is currently under review within the DHS and will soon be sent to the Office of Management and Budget to complete the clearance process.

The next step, Chertoff said, is "piloting, on a voluntary basis, a system that would provide expanded global access to trade information." This system would involve the submission of an even broader range of data by a wider variety of supply chain actors to a third-party global trade exchange (GTX) that could be accessed by government agencies. More information would allow CBP to be more precise in identifying risks and to thus conduct fewer and better-targeted container inspections. Chertoff stressed that the GTX operator would be a "trusted aggregator" and that there would be "a stringent rule set" to make sure that sensitive business information is not "divulged or shared to competitors." He noted that CBP hopes to put out a request for proposal on such a system in the "very near future."

Although some concern has been voiced about the GTX concept, largely because there are still so few details about it, Chertoff indicated that current trends are forcing CBP in this direction. "There is going to be, for a whole host of reasons, issues about terrorism, issues about import safety, an increasing demand for security with respect to what comes into the country," he said. "Those of you who have seen the 100 percent overseas scanning requirements well understand that a simple argument like 100 percent physical inspection can have a lot of traction. And if we're not prompt and reasonably energetic in coming up with an alternative model for how to do this, we may well find the model being dictated by people who have a very simple view of what ought to be done, which is open everything up." The best way to avoid such a scenario is "the intelligent accumulation of information," he added. While Chertoff acknowledged that companies are often wary of having to comply with additional requirements, he observed that "in this day and age with respect to the way in which data is accumulated and analyzed and the commercial setting, it would strike me as odd that we not seek to continue to get more and better data from a wider variety of people to make a more informed judgment about what to look at."

In related news, CBP recently posted to its Web site the new minimum criteria for C-TPAT membership for U.S. and foreign-based marine port authorities and terminal operators and Mexican long-haul highway carriers. According to CBP, MPTOs and Mexican long-haul carriers wishing to enrol in C-TPAT will have 120 days from 6 August to implement all of the security measures outlined in these criteria. Those who are already C-TPAT members must meet or exceed these criteria by the end of this timeframe as well.

The areas covered by the new minimum security criteria for MPTOs include the following: business partner requirements, container security, physical access controls, personnel security, procedural security, physical security, information technology security and security training and awareness. CBP notes that while participating MPTOs must conduct a comprehensive assessment of their security practices based on these minimum criteria, the programme allows for flexibility and the customisation of security plans based on the C-TPAT member's business model, the port's geography, the commodities handled at the port and the terms and conditions of the lease agreement between the marine port authority and the terminal operator.

In order to participate in C-TPAT, foreign-based MPTOs must (i) be an active MPTO in an international location and have received an invitation from CBP to join C-TPAT, (ii) handle cargo vessels departing to the U.S. and (iii) designate a company officer as the primary cargo security officer responsible for C-TPAT. CBP advises that compliance with the International Ship and Port Security Code and the Maritime Transportation Security Act are a prerequisite for C-TPAT membership for MPTOs and that only terminals in compliance with the applicable ISPS code requirements may be utilised by C-TPAT members. The physical access controls and physical security provisions of the C-TPAT criteria are satisfied for ISPS-regulated vessels and port facilities by their compliance with the ISPS Code and Coast Guard regulations.