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National Industrial Transportation League criticizes new C-TPAT security standards

The National Industrial Transportation League (NITL), in a December 3 letter to the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP), said it has major concerns over revised security standards that have been proposed by the agency to apply to importers that participate in the program known as the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT).

Since its inception in 2002, the league has supported this program. The purpose and scope of C-TPAT has been to improve security of the freight transportation system, while also ensuring the free flow of commerce.

NITL's views were voiced by Peter J Gatti, the organization's executive vice-president. He told the agency that the league's reactions to the CBP's proposed plan were based on a review by members who are United States importers of various commodities across different supply chains and are themselves participants in C-TPAT.

Gatti noted 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.” He said that 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.”

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, the league stressed that the substantial uncertainties associated with the new plan could discourage new companies from joining C-TPAT. These uncertainties might force many companies to discontinue their participation due to new costs and liability risks associated with the proposal compared with the benefits derived from the program.

In discussions with industry representatives, CBP has indicated its intention to put in place the new C-TPAT standards by the end of 2004. In response to this timetable, Gatti said, “The agency should continue to work with industry to develop realistic and workable security measures that are likely to lead to effective security standards.”

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