CTPAT | Cargo Smuggling Trends Members Should Know

Recent Cargo Smuggling and Contraband Trends

Among CBP’s CTPAT compliance updates during the 2022 Trade Facilitation and Cargo Security Summit were highlights of recent smuggling trends:  
  • 37% of illicit drugs seized in FY21 were concealed in shipments commingled with legitimate cargo
  • 35.7% of FY21 contraband incidents occur at the manufacturing facility
  • 58 of the 314 total FY21 incidents fell under the Business Partner Requirements MSC
  • 32% of MSC deficiencies in FY21 resulted from inadequate evidence of implementation
As of August 1st, CBP is accepting new applicants into the CTPAT program. The agency has also revamped virtual and in-person validations with additional staff. As a result, member companies are busy updating their security profiles, aiming for the gold standard of supply chain security.  


The CTPAT Minimum Security Criteria for transportation security emphasizes critical areas of conveyance security due diligence. To maintain a contraband-free supply chain, the MSC requires your supply chain operations team to keep up with evolving smuggling trends. Listed below are event smuggling trends all CTPAT member companies should be aware of:  


  • “Rip-Off” Loads
    • Contraband placed in legitimate cargo
  • Structure Loads
    • Particularly in reefer panels
  • Homemade GPS devices attached to contraband
    • Tracking devices so individuals can keep their footprint clean
  • Cloned Tractor Trailers  
    • Cloning is extremely popular 
    • Wrapped to look like a company tractor trailer 
    • Nearly identical to real tractors


Vetting your business partners is a critical component in the CTPAT security profile. Establish routine communications about your company’s engagement in the CTPAT program, and discuss standards that they’re required to meet as a business partner. Even partners that do not qualify for CTPAT membership benefit significantly from following CTPAT guidelines. Learn more about the business partner vetting process. 

Technology Best Practices for CTPAT Members

Security systems that help mitigate risk factors include:

  • Cameras
  • Motion Detectors  
  • Automated Alerts 
  • Drones  

It is best practice to implement devices that detect Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or GPS as they can detect tracking devices concealed within shipments which, in turn, lead to discovering contraband.  

CTPAT Minimum Security Criteria (MSC) Updates

As smuggling and contraband become an increasing concern, CTPAT has updated several initiatives and increased internal efforts to address these threats aggressively:  


Updated MSC 

  • 7-Point Container Inspection  
  • 8-Point Reefer Inspection  
  • Seal Security (VVTT)  


CBP’s Maritime Security Unit  Enhancements

  • 1 Supervisor, 12 SCSS’s, and 5 CTPAT Field Offices 
    • Promoting channels between CBP and Global Maritime Partners 
    • Initiated over 100 post-incident analysis and RFI (Request for Information)

About Us

The CT Strategies team of former CBP CTPAT Supply Chain Security Specialists (SCSS) and Directors help companies successfully navigate CBP’s CTPAT program. Using insights from over 80 years of combined CBP operational and policy knowledge, we leverage our first-hand CTPAT supply chain security experience and connections to current CBP leadership, so you can save time and money and get the most out of your CTPAT membership.

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