More than 1,000 individuals representing companies and organizations that ship materials across borders are in San Antonio this week for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Conference. They came to network with their international partners and to learn more about special government programs that streamline processing and offer additional security when they send goods to other countries.
The main "trusted trader programs" are the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT), and the EU's Authorized Economic Operator (AEO).
Officials liken the two programs for shipping goods across borders to the TSA pre-check at the airport, the expedited pre-screening process that moves individual passengers through security more quickly.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Deputy Assistant Commissioner Of International Affairs, Ana Hinojosa, said the voluntary programs provide an enhanced measure of security for the companies who go through the pre-screening process, and can help a company increase its business.
"You want to do business with somebody else that's C-TPAT certified because you know what it takes to become a C-TPAT member and you know that you can trust them," Hinojosa said. "If they're C-TPAT certified they have strong security profiles and are doing a good job of protecting your valuable cargo."
C-TPAT Director Ronald May of the Buffalo, New York, office, said the San Antonio conference offered best practices for security across a variety of shipping circumstances.
"We had a presentation yesterday afternoon by a gentleman with Perdue Pharma and he gave an example of a cargo theft incident," May said. "And one of the things he talked about was making sure your deliveries aren't done over the weekend, because when you deliver on Friday that means your goods will sit the weekend somewhere until Monday."
May said the trusted trader programs also help companies assess dangers where there are issues of unrest.
Facilitators for the conference say the programs are coveted by businesses across the globe. So far the programs have attracted businesses in more than 50 countries; officials said the 1,200 slots for the conference filled up within half an hour of opening the registration.