TSA Means Business

Foreign artists embarking on a U.S. trek for the first time need to be diligent in making arrangements to transport their gear across the Pond and around the States.

Transportation Security Administration officials are discussing the possibility of tightening regulations, which could be put into effect at any time.

Peter Lamy of Backstage Cargo in Los Angeles said a band needs to have U.S. representation to ensure TSA guidelines are followed and to avoid transportation delays and potential rate hikes.

“What they need to do is make sure they’re hooked up with a management company in the U.S. that is recognized for transportation. There’s a [TSA] database that recognizes known shippers,” Lamy told Pollstar. “It’s the responsibility of the freight forwarder to make them known in the TSA database for the [agency] to do a background check, confirm they’re legitimate and keep things moving.

“We try and educate our customers ahead of time and eliminate that problem. Every country is different. Right now, the U.S. is the toughest.”

Rock-It Cargo‘s TSA Compliance Manager Sasha Goodman told Pollstar that freight forwarding companies are required to complete TSA training courses and be registered with its security program.

In turn, all vendors those companies do business with must have completed security training and be verified to have insurance, be a bonafide carrier and not have affiliations with any terrorist groups.

“The TSA has been really, really diligent and a lot of freight forwarders are being caught with not qualifying and making their vendors known,” she explained. “Even if we had the Foo Fighters and we were transporting them, we could not have a trucker that had not been verified take that freight to a passenger airline.”

TSA regulation changes are divulged on a need-to-know basis and cannot be discussed prior to being announced, but Goodman did say Rock-It is updating its customers’ records to assure they are recognized as known shippers.

“The European bands that are coming, we need to find out if they have U.S. representation, a Federal Tax ID number and if they can be verified,” she said. “If they can’t be, we’re into chartering a plane, using cargo-only carriers and it’s a little bit more time sensitive as to how you get from [point] A to Z.”

That’s not to say that a foreign band coming to the States without a U.S. representative will be out of luck if it isn’t qualified for transport. Goodman said a freight forwarder can declare the band an unknown shipper and use cargo-only aircraft or trucks if needed.

“We’re fortunate that we are the largest and we have the best buying power, so it doesn’t impact our customers whether it goes on a passenger craft or a cargo aircraft in terms of price,” she said. “It does [impact] smaller freight forwarders. They’re really hit hard with the rates.”

Both Lamy and Goodman encourage artists just starting out in the business to do their homework on TSA regulations and required documentation as well as consult with a freight forwarder prior to heading overseas.

– Tina Amendola