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C-TPAT Membership Facts

Improving the security at the nation’s borders became a priority following the events of September 11, 2001. Greater scrutiny was placed on the shipments into the U.S., resulting in longer wait-times in the Customs clearance process. Still, only two percent of containers entering the country are inspected (1).


There are currently over 3,800 members of the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT), including Motorola, Ford, and GM. In order to obtain membership to C-TPAT, companies must submit an action plan detailing the processes used to secure their entire supply chain, including manufacturers, carriers, importers and brokers. Requirements include information about: personnel security, procedural security, conveyance security, physical security, access controls, education and training, and access controls (2). It can take over a year from time of application to actually receiving membership (3). There has been speculation about mandatory membership in the future. Many types of organizations can apply for membership including: importers, some foreign manufacturers, licensed brokers, air, rail and sea carriers.

Steps to Membership

  1. The company signs and submits a C-TPAT Agreement to Voluntarily Participate.
  2. Within 60 days of submission of the agreement, the company submits a Security Profile. This profile is based on an internal review the Company undertakes using C-TPAT Security Guidelines and Recommendations. During the internal review, the Company reviews its internal security, as well as that of all members of the supply chain. The company will also agree to any necessary corrective action.
  3. Customs informs the company whether it has been certified.
  1. Customs verifies that the security profile is accurate and validates the company.

Benefits for Members

  • C-TPAT members are about half as likely to have cargo stopped for inspections.
  • During the security profile, the applicant can learning weak points in their own supply chain.
  • Should C-TPAT become mandatory, members have already gained experience in the program.
  • Membership is necessary to become involved FAST (Free and Secure Trade), a program that expedites transportation across Canadian and Mexican borders into the US.
  • Members receive US Customs support in developing a security plan.


Despite the many benefits, the process is not yet perfect and the application for membership takes time and strains Customs’ resources. While there are over 3,800 members of C-TPAT, only a small fraction has made it through the entire certification and validation process. Additionally, developing the program requires time and finances from applicants.

For more information

The best place to begin getting information is through Customs itself. The C-TPAT website outlines the process and requirements for certification and also explains the FAST program in more detail.


(1) Stein, Nicholas. “America’s 21st Century Borders.” Fortune. September 4, 2004, 114-119.

(2) Dutton, Gail. “Border Security a Lead Pipe Cinch?” World Trade. September 2002, pg 42-43.

(3) Gooley, Toby B. “C-TPAT: Separating Hype from Reality.” Logistics Management, August 2004. pg 77-79.