The Department of Homeland Security has published its final rule for the Transportation Worker Identification Credential program in the Federal Register, revealing a program that could someday be applied to other workers at public and private shipping sites throughout the U.S.
The program is designed to enhance port security by checking the backgrounds of workers before they are granted unescorted access to secure areas of maritime facilities and ships. Workers will have a card with a circuit chip that stores information such as fingerprints and documentation of residency that can be read remotely by port security.
DHS amended its TWIC rules to allow alien workers with B1/OCS (Outer Continental Shelf) visas to be eligible to apply for TWIC. The government has not yet added TWIC availability for the more common H2B visa available to unskilled workers, but will consider allowing certain H2B visa holders to apply.
“We believe this provision is necessary to avoid the chance that we will inadvertently exclude aliens who possess lawful U.S. presence and are prevalent in or important to the maritime industry,” the final rule states.
TWIC may also apply to other residents and workers beyond ports, the rule states.
“In the future TSA may wish to expand the TWIC program to non-maritime modes of transportation,” it states.
Also, the final rule for TWIC maintains TSA’s position of keeping the door open for applications from Canadian and Mexican truck drivers who haul hazmat.
OOIDA Director of Regulatory Affairs Rick Craig said that allowing trucks from Mexico to haul hazmat into the U.S. is potentially troublesome, due to Mexico’s lack of a reliable criminal database.
Private warehouses and other facilities accessed by truck drivers could begin to require the TWIC, Craig said, which could be burdensome but could eliminate the implementation of multiple background checks in the future.
Craig said some in the trucking industry have expressed concern about the TWIC card’s computer chip that can be read remotely.
“If they have anything RFID and someone has some sort of a reader, they could steal their identity – it’s always a concern,” Craig told Land Line.
TWIC’s final amendments do include one victory for truckers and other port workers.
The standard TWIC fee was reduced from $137.25 to $132.50 after the FBI reduced its criminal background system checks by $4.75. The fee for a replacement card, however, was increased from $36 to $60.
– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer