The National Industrial Transportation League (NITL) in a letter to the U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) says it has major concerns over revised security standards that have been proposed by the agency to apply to importers who participate in the program known as the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT). Since its inception in 2002, NITL has supported this program as the purpose and scope of C-TPAT has been to improve the security of the freight transportation system, while also ensuring to the greatest extent possible the free flow of commerce.
NITL’s reactions to the CBP’s proposed plan were based on a review by members who are U.S. importers of a variety of commodities across different supply chains and are themselves participants in C-TPAT, according to Peter Gatti, NITL’s executive vice president.
Gatti notes that while CBP’s efforts to modify its original proposal represents some improvement, the revised proposal -- particularly as to its approach and standards -- is in many respects, “still unrealistic, unworkable and vague.” Because the new proposed standards for C-TPAT “are more akin to mandatory obligations and are intended to hold the importer more accountable for the security of its supply chain, significant liability concerns are created by the proposal,” he says.
NITL specifically focused its detailed comments on CBP’s proposed requirements concerning: risk assessments; mandatory vs. voluntary requirements; business partnership requirements; container security; and other security requirements.
If CBP were to adopt the proposed standards for importers, NITL believes that the substantial uncertainties associated with the new plan could discourage new companies from signing up for C-TPAT and might force many existing companies not to continue their participation due to new costs and liability risks associated with the proposal as compared to the benefits derived from the program.
CBP in discussions with industry representatives has indicated its intention to put in place the new C-TPAT standards as early as the end of 2004. Gatti in response to this timetable says, “The agency should continue to work with industry to develop realistic and workable security measures that are likely to lead to effective security standards.”