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C-TPAT: Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism


Sea carriers in the C-TPAT program may now apply to participate in the Advanced Qualified Unlading Approval.  The advanced unlading process will be available to sea carriers in 10 seaports throughout the U.S.  The process will potentially save time for sea carriers in the C-TPAT program and allow CBP to better focus our resources.  See the FAQ and PowerPoint presentation in the sidebar for additional information about this exciting new benefit.

C-TPAT is but one layer in U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) multi-layered cargo enforcement strategy. Through this program, CBP works with the trade community to strengthen international supply chains and improve United States border security. C-TPAT is a voluntary public-private sector partnership program which recognizes that CBP can provide the highest level of cargo security only through close cooperation with the principle stakeholders of the international supply chain such as importers, carriers, consolidators, licensed customs brokers, and manufacturers. The Security and Accountability for Every Port Act of 2006 provided a statutory framework for the C-TPAT program and imposed strict program oversight requirements.

A Growing Partnership

From its inception in November 2001, C-TPAT continued to grow. Today, more than 11,400 certified partners spanning the gamut of the trade community, have been accepted into the program. The partners include U.S. importers/exporters, U.S./Canada highway carriers; U.S./Mexico highway carriers; rail and sea carriers; licensed U.S. Customs brokers; U.S. marine port authority/terminal operators; U.S. freight consolidators; ocean transportation intermediaries and non‐operating common carriers; Mexican and Canadian manufacturers; and Mexican long‐haul carriers, all of whom account for over 52 percent (by value) of cargo imported into the U.S.

How C-TPAT works

When an entity joins C-TPAT, an agreement is made to work with CBP to protect the supply chain, identify security gaps, and implement specific security measures and best practices. Applicants must address a broad range of security topics and present security profiles that list action plans to align security throughout the supply chain.

C‐TPAT members are considered to be of low risk, and are therefore less likely to be examined at a U.S. port of entry.

C-TPAT Benefits

C-TPAT Partners enjoy a variety of benefits, including taking an active role in working closer with the U.S. Government in its war against terrorism. As they do this, Partners are able to better identify their own security vulnerabilities and take corrective actions to mitigate risks. Some of the benefits of the program include:

  • Reduced number of CBP examinations
  • Front of the line inspections
  • Possible exemption from Stratified Exams
  • Shorter wait times at the border
  • Assignment of a Supply Chain Security Specialist to the company
  • Access to the Free and Secure Trade (FAST) Lanes at the land borders
  • Access to the C-TPAT web-based Portal system and a library of training materials
  • Possibility of enjoying additional benefits by being recognized as a trusted trade Partner by foreign Customs administrations that have signed Mutual Recognition with the United States
  • Eligibility for other U.S. Government pilot programs, such as the Food and Drug Administration’s Secure Supply Chain program
  • Business resumption priority following a natural disaster or terrorist attack
  • Importer eligibility to participate in the Importer Self-Assessment Program (ISA)
  • Priority consideration at CBP’s industry-focused Centers of Excellence and Expertise

How Do I Become a Partner?

Join C-TPAT Now

Participation in C-TPAT is voluntary and there are no costs associated with joining the program. Moreover, a company does not need an intermediary in order to apply to the program and work with CBP; the application process is easy and it is done online. The first step is for the company to review the C-TPAT Minimum Security Criteria for their business entity to determine eligibility for the program. The second step is for the company to submit a basic application via the C-TPAT Portal system and to agree to voluntarily participate. The third step is for the company to complete a supply chain security profile. The security profile explains how the company is meeting C-TPAT’s minimum security criteria. In order to do this, the company should have already conducted a risk assessment. Upon satisfactory completion of the application and supply chain security profile, the applicant company is assigned a C-TPAT Supply Chain Security Specialist to review the submitted materials and to provide program guidance on an on-going basis. The C-TPAT program will then have up to 90 days to certify the company into the program or to reject the application. If certified, the company will be validated within a year of certification.

If you have C-TPAT issues or questions, please contact your Supply Chain Security Specialist, or the Duty Officer of the Day by email at or by phone at (202) 344‐1180.  Be advised that the Duty Officer cannot reset your password for you, they assist with general inquiries and questions.

Note: Visit for instructions to complete annual reviews, and to view training materials related to common C-TPAT processes. Also information on new features will be posted to the C-TPAT Public Library.

Note: Technical issues should be reported via telephone to the national Help Desk at 1-866-530-4172 option 4, (after hours at 1-800-927-8729) or via email to

Last published: 
April 5, 2017