How to Improve Maritime Cargo Security

Tags: Ocean, Security

When U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) introduced the Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) initiative in the aftermath of Sept. 11, it gave government, shippers, carriers, port authorities, and other transportation and logistics intermediaries a platform to build better security protocol into the supply chain.

As a consequence, shippers today are taking cues from CBP and making concerted efforts to share and apply security best practices throughout their organizations and supply chains. In fact, some are making voluntary C-TPAT certification a compliance requirement among partners.

Apart from applying for C-TPAT membership, here are six steps companies can take to shore up their supply chains.

  1. Use Checklists. C-TPAT requires companies to "conduct periodic spot-checks to ensure all procedures are being performed." One way shippers can address this is by employing checklists. Steamship lines use this approach when sweeping a vessel for potential security breaches, examining internal/external compartments, and reviewing shipboard training programs. Shippers can engage a similar step-by-step process within their facilities to ensure a shipment's chain of custody remains intact.
  2. Stay Alert. Monitoring the work environment, especially on the waterfront, is critical to any maritime security program. Some steamship lines routinely and randomly inspect containers in transit to keep shippers, suppliers, and other intermediaries on their toes. If breaches arise, they can use this information to identify the problem's root and develop solutions to prevent future compromises.
  3. Maintain Seals. C-TPAT requires partners' shipped containers to have high-security seals that meet ISO PAS 17712.  Making sure delivered containers remained sealed is an important consideration in the supply chain.
    Containers with seal security issues should not be allowed to continue their movement until the discrepancy is researched and resolved. Stopping the container as close as possible to the point of discovery makes it easier to identify the nature of the problem. Proper action may involve applying a high-security seal, requiring a shipper to verify the contents and add a seal, or refusing to lade a container on its next means of conveyance.
  4. Ship Through a CSI Port. Before there was C-TPAT, there was the Container Security Initiative (CSI). CSI is designed to push the security border beyond America's shores to foreign ports. It consists of four key elements:
    Using advanced intelligence to identify and target containers that may pose a threat.
    • Pre-screening suspicious containers while they are still overseas.
    • Using technology to quickly pre-screen suspicious containers.
    • Employing smart containers.
  5. Security Training and Awareness. C-TPAT specifically requires that "a security awareness program should be established and maintained...to recognize and foster awareness of security vulnerabilities to vessel and maritime cargo."
    Companies can enhance security knowledge and execution by implementing training programs—whether off-the-shelf online courses or homegrown exercises that are specific to job requirements.
  6. Read CBP's Handbook. U.S. CBP has a list of guidelines and best practices shippers can use to improve security within their own organizations.

Inclusive Company

Companies that may apply for U.S. C-TPAT certification include:

  • U.S. importers of record
  • Rail, sea, and air carriers
  • U.S. marine port authority and terminal operators
  • U.S. airfreight consolidators, ocean transportation intermediaries, and non-vessel-operating common carriers
  • U.S./Canada highway carriers and U.S./Mexico highway carriers
  • Mexican and Canadian manufacturers
  • Select foreign manufacturers
  • Licensed U.S. customs brokers