Get cheaper international shipping rates by using a freight forwrarding company that can get you "known shipper" status

Being a TSA certified known shipper will help you get the cheapest international shipping rates because it opens many doors and avenues not available to those who aren’t.

In response to the events of September 11, 2001, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) instated new regulations in order to ensure the safety of domestic and international air flights. The TSA was made responsible for instating these new regulations and programs as well as overseeing all transportation by truck, rail, ocean, and air.

One of the programs the TSA instated is the Known Shipper Management System (KSMS). It is one of TSA’s most important implementations in order to strengthen air cargo security by establishing procedures for air carriers, indirect air carriers, and freight forwarders to distinguish between known and unknown shipping agents that deliver their cargoes for air transport.

What does this mean for securing the cheapest international shipping available? It means when you comply with these regulations, you’ll have access to more opportunities that result in lower shipping rates AND better routes.

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A “known shipper” is basically an entity, whether an individual or a company, who has an established business relationship with an indirect air carrier, an aircraft operator, or an air carrier.  Proof of such established relationships can include customer records, shipping contracts, business history, and either a business site inspection or a current Dun and Bradstreet background check.

1: Better & more available routes

Profiles that have been submitted by air carriers or freight forwarders to the TSA and have been properly subjected to full background checks are considered “known shippers”.  Shippers having this official status are able to ship, with some restrictions, their freight on both passenger and cargo aircraft, whereas those that are “unknown” are limited to shipping their cargo only on cargo aircrafts which have limited service options and more expensive prices. These rules apply to both domestic and international shipments originating in the United States.

2: Avoid unnecessary setbacks

Shippers exporting by air that are not TSA certified can experience shipment delays, higher costs and longer, indirect flight routings as their cargo can ship solely on cargo aircraft.

To take advantage of better costs, fewer delays, increased shipping options and more direct flights of passenger aircraft, it is a very good idea for exporters to take the extra steps needed to become certified. Of course, there are challenges to ensuring that all benefits are being fully realized, but that can be handled by using a reputable freight forwarder.

For example, the TSA requires that all suppliers, warehouses, vendors, etc. involved in the logistics supply chain also be certified as “known shippers.” For this reason, you’ll want to work with a freight forwarding company that is deeply connected and experienced, so you know going into it that you’re in total compliance.

3: Cheap freight

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has a database that contains all the shippers that have been validated as known. What this means is that TSA certified shippers are not subject to price and availability restrictions imposed on shippers who are not known.

4: Alternatives to being known

One option for those of you that are “unknown” would be to use air carriers that operate all-cargo aircrafts and freighters. While there are still strict security measures for freighters, there is no requirement for obtaining certification. The disadvantage with this option is that airlines have been significantly downsized in the last few years, leaving little to no air freighters left that fly domestically. They were made almost obsolete due to the economic recession and greater demand for more fuel efficient aircraft.

However, air freighters are still widely use for international routes with U.S. departures on a daily basis.

5: It’s a little tricky doing it on your own

So, how, exactly, does one actually become TSA certified?

Unfortunately, there is no formal application. Even more frustrating is that the requirements issued by the TSA to become certified is considered confidential and restricted and is not available to the public.

Perhaps the best option available to you is to establish correspondence with a competent freight forwarding company that can submit your profile to the TSA for consideration. Due to the stringent rules, one cannot simply submit their profiles directly to the TSA, so it must be done through an IAC / freight forwarder.

Once your profile is forwarded to the TSA, the IAC usually gets an approval or non-approval status in a very short time (often same day). If approved, you can rest assured that they are now certified with the TSA, and you’ll have access to the many benefits it provides.


It is always better to be in compliance at the highest levels, because it minimizes the chances that you’ll be subjected to higher fees and longer shipping routes. For help in this area, it’s great to have a team working for you that can plug you in with things like this TSA certification with minimal hassle.

Interested in assessing how you can save time and money by being TSA certified? Connect with one of our quoting specialists today!

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