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Guide on the use of C-TPAT Security Seals in transportation


Customs-Trade Partnerships against Terrorism or C-TPAT is the voluntary supply-chain security-programs by the US Customs & Border-Protection or CBP has been focused on making improvements of security in supply chains of private companies with regards to terrorism. C-TPAT forms voluntary, joint government & business partnerships for helping to add to the supply chains & increase the border security.

C-TPAT has over 10000 certified partners with half of them being importers. The program was oriented around US-imports through air-carriers, consolidators, cross-border carriers, marine-port authorities, oceanic carriers, railroad carriers, terminal-operators & 3rd party logistics providers or 3-PL’s, custom-brokers & importers eligible to get C-TPAT certification in US. The program is of key importance to importers who have derived benefits from the program.

In JIT-industry today delays could represent considerable monetary losses for US-exporters. CBP published requirements for US-exporters for participating in C-TPAT security seals for transportation. It is collaborating with trade & Mutual-Recognition Arrangements or MRA-countries for developing export programs.

Benefits of having C-TPAT certification:-

The benefits of having C-TPAT certification are measurable increases in speeds of freight with fees-reduction. The benefits are supported by granting access to Free & Secure Trade or FAST-lanes at the land-borders & abilities for moving to fronts of the inspection-lines.

There is lesser potential of undergoing CBP-examinations & exemptions from the Stratified-Exams or SE’s and shorter waiting time at borders.

C-TPAT-seals enable eligibility for various US-Government pilot plans and potential for participating in Importers Self-Assessment Programs or ISA. With C-TPAT-certification the CBP can realize higher SC-visibility with better-focused resources on the high-risk shipments & SC-participants.

Effective Use of Seals:-

For being effective, the seal-types must be suitable for applications and used in conformity with a comprehensive seal-controlling program. These programs must be used in conformity with seal-control programs that are part of integrated security systems.

Integration enables systems to provide high confidence & protection level with multiple layer-protections. When security system-components fail to function within integrated systems, other components & layers continue providing some levels of protection until failed components are replaced or repaired.

Effective seal-control programs have the following elements viz., procurement, storage, installation, accountability, Inspection, responses to any seal anomaly, and seal-removals & inspections.

Purpose of Seals:-

When seals are used for indicating tampering in inventory-control & accountability seals having bar codes that require scanning at the custody-points) or automatic forms of identification are considered.

For example, there can be different kinds of bar-code symbols of configurations and different kinds of bar-code readers. There must be adherence to the standard DoD-symbols with serial numbers in the seal linked to the contents of the container or the area.

Types of Seal-Applications:-

Seal-types selected must be compatible with applications and fit snugly so that they cannot be tampered without breaking seals.

For example, the container door-hinges having fixed hinge-pins or hinge-side protections must be designed for preventing door-removal without causing disturbance to the seals or leaving evidence of forced or attempted entry.

Size & Shape of Seals:-

The sizes and shapes of seals selected must be according to container- type to be protected and seal may have designs for accommodating bar-coding, serial-numbers, or some other information. Whenever bar-codes are used there must be scanners at custody points for ensuring codes have not changed or altered.


Environmental-compatibility & use-periods of seals should be selected so that they survive hostile-environments where used. For example, the environment near saline waters could warrant the use of plastic or stainless-steel seals instead of metal-seals which are corrosion-prone over prolonged periods of use. Seal-corrosion impairs tampering-detection.

Ease of Installation & Removal:-

Some seals, like pull-tight plastic seals, can be installed without any tool other types may need installation tools for which personnel must be properly trained.

Tamper Indicating Qualities:-

Seals have different tamper indication properties some are easily identified by visual inspections others need closer examination with postmortem procedures. Training personnel for inspection is needed for ensuring high levels of assurance tampering is detected & controlled effectively

Disposition of the used seals:-

Seal users and receivers must have the capability for properly disposing seals as per seal disposal procedure provided by shipping facilities.


Destroying and storing seals after they have been used is needed as parts can be removed for tampering with seals of the same kinds. Some seals are disposed of as classified or sensitive part-waste.


Container integrity must be maintained for protecting against the introduction of some unauthorized or contraband material at loading points and procedures must be there for proper sealing & maintaining of the integrity of shipping containers. 


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