If your business deals in any way with shipping containers, you most likely use security seals when transporting your merchandise. And chances are the terms "C-TPAT" and "ISO 17712" are very familiar to you as well. Or, if you are responsible for shipping smaller, yet highly valuable packages, you might also have a need for security seals.
There are several types of situations that can call for the use of these seals. Sometimes the use of them can be voluntary - if you suspect tampering or theft, or wish to simply avoid these hazards, you might want to use security seals to protect your assets either against internal or external threats. In these circumstances, you'll want to choose the type of seal that best fits your budget and your specific requirements.
Sometimes, however, you need to use them because your business is required to do so by law, in which case there are certain standards that need to be considered when choosing which type to buy.
What Exactly Are C-TPAT and ISO 17712?
The Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) is a voluntary business-government initiative that seeks to protect the world's trade industry from terrorism. Members agree to protect the supply chain of goods and adhere to certain requirements and standards. Members of C-TPAT are considered low-risk, and are less likely to be examined, and enjoy certain benefits.
A key component in the requirements that must be followed by C-TPAT members is the use of security seals on containers, and these seals must meet certain requirements. ISO 17712 is a set of international standards that explain what these requirements are. Created by the International Organization for Standardization, ISO 17712 lays out strict guidelines that security seal manufacturers must use. These are the guidelines that you'll want to take into consideration when purchasing these items for your business.
ISO 17712 General Requirements
ISO 17712 lays out very specific requirements which security seals need to meet, in order to be used by C-PTAT members. In a nutshell, the integrity of a shipping container must be protected against the introduction of unauthorized material and/or persons, as well as theft.
Some of the requirements mandated by ISO 17712 state that seals must be easy to apply and seal, are strong and durable against weather, chemical action and undetectable tampering, permanently and uniquely marked and numbered, and marked with an easily identifiable manufacturer's logo. You'll want to be sure that the ones you purchase for use meet these basic requirements.
The Three Types of Seals
ISO 17712 also defines three different categories of seals that are approved to use - Indicative Seals, Security Seals, and High Security Seals.
Indicative Seals are made of materials such as plastic or thin metal, and can be easily broken by hand or with a simple type of snipping tool. They change shape or their visual appearance if they have been tampered with.
Security Seals are passive, one-time locking devices used to provide a reliable indicator of tampering or attempted entry. They provide limited resistance and are usually made of spiral, wound or solid wire that can be removed with lightweight wire cutters.
High Security Seals are constructed of metal or metal cable, and are designed to delay intrusion. These seals must be removed with high quality bolt cutters.
What All This Means to You
All of these guidelines and requirements can be a little overwhelming - but only if you let them! You might need to do a little homework up front, to make sure you completely understand what the full monetary value of your cargo is, as well as what some of your potential theft / tampering threats might be. This knowledge of the inner workings of your business, combined with a basic knowledge of the C-TPAT and ISO 17712 guidelines, will arm you with the information you need, to make smart security seal purchasing decisions for your business.
Additionally, once you have a complete view of what your needs are, you can then work with your security seal retailer to find the perfect products for your business needs. Of course you'll want to find a retailer who carries high-quality, competitively priced products, but just as important, be sure to find a seller who has experts on their staff to answer your questions and provide you with any information you might need. You're not in this process alone - so don't ever feel like you are!