Safeguarding the safe transportation of goods is paramount. The Known Shipper program is administered by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and is a vital initiative created to enhance the security measures surrounding air cargo shipments and to prevent the shipment of dangerous or prohibited items on aircraft.
The TSA Known Shipper Management System (KSMS) is a database containing shippers approved by the TSA for transporting their cargo on passenger airlines safely.
Known Shippers are companies or individuals who have been vetted and approved by the TSA. The goal of the program is to establish a trusted relationship between shippers and air carriers by thoroughly vetting shippers to ensure the integrity and security of their shipments. This means that “known shippers” can transport cargo on regular passenger airlines.
Participating shippers in the TSA program must remain vigilant and continually adapt to changing security regulations and guidelines. These shippers employ stringent security measures, ensuring the integrity of the shipment's custody chain from its starting point to its final destination.
Benefits of Being a TSA Known Shipper
Being a known shipper can provide you with many benefits. Not only do known shippers have access to better rates, but they also have more options for flight routes and less frequent delays as your cargo can be shipped via passenger aircraft. Cargo from known shippers is usually subjected solely to X-ray scanning similar to regular passenger luggage. The program also helps TSA streamline the screening process for cargo shipments.
How to Become a TSA Known Shipper
Aircraft operators, foreign air carriers, and Indirect Air Carriers (IAC) must comply with a range of specific security requirements to qualify their clients as known shippers. Shippers interested in transporting goods by air may contact their transportation service provider and request to become a known shipper.
Generally, this includes providing your company name, address, contact name, and phone number. The TSA utilizes Dun and Bradstreet to confirm that your company has a history of financial disclosures, which verifies your business information. If your company has a history of financial transactions, you will be approved as a known shipper.
If your company is relatively new and doesn't have much history of financial transactions, the known shipper application will most likely be rejected. In this case, Dun and Bradstreet will reach out to the contact at the provided phone number to verify the information you provided.
TSA does not disclose specific information regarding the application process and eligibility criteria. Instead, they assess each applicant individually, considering their unique circumstances, in order to uphold the program's security and integrity. The best way to start the application process is to contact an air freight forwarder, such as Mercury, that can submit your application.
Once approved, a Known Shipper receives a unique identification number that must be used during the shipping process.
The Known Shipper program doesn't guarantee full exemption from security measures. Carriers can still perform extra checks on known shippers or their cargo, if needed. The TSA also monitors and evaluates known shippers' security practices to ensure ongoing compliance.
Working with a freight forwarder can help streamline the application process.
For customers who ship with Mercury, we can provide guidance throughout the application process of obtaining the TSA Known Shipper designation. We'll help you submit your company's name to the TSA KSMS database for review and approval, and we'll provide ongoing support and advice to help you maintain your status as a TSA Known Shipper. Once approved, your company will be assigned a known shipper number by the TSA Known Shipper Management System.
*Please note that this service is exclusively available to businesses shipping with Mercury
If your company moves to a new address, your known shipper status will be removed. Reach out to your service provider in advance of moving to ensure that you maintain your known shipper status.
What Happens if the Known Shipper Application is Denied?
The TSA reserves the right to revoke Known Shipper status for non-compliance. If your application is denied by the TSA, Mercury can assist you by submitting an appeal on your behalf. Our team can also help you with any issues related to the application process and provide guidance on how to improve your chances of being approved.
Shipping Internationally as a Known Shipper
Known Shippers can ship cargo internationally. It's essential to follow the specific rules and requirements of the country you're shipping to. You should also be aware of any extra security measures the transportation authorities or airline might have in place.
How to Maintain Your Status as a TSA Known Shipper
To maintain your status as a TSA Known Shipper and continue shipping, you must renew your status annually. At Mercury, we can assist you with renewing your status, ensuring that you remain a trusted and reliable shipper.
Starting from May 7, 2023, TSA will mandate that shippers who have physical addresses in Canada, Mexico, and U.S. territories must be included in the KSMS database for the purpose of verifying their known status.
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