Senators question TSA over TWIC; enforcement to be time-delayed

| Friday, October 05, 2007

The first port enrollments for the Transportation Worker Identification Credential program will begin in mid-October, followed by 11 other ports in November, according to the TSA.

But enforcement of TWIC may not be coming for some time.

Maurine Shields Fanguy, TWIC program director at the Transportation Security Administration, told the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee on Thursday, Oct. 4, that the twice-delayed enrollment of the program will begin within days at one port.

Fanguy also said, however, that enrollment will be open nationally for several months before it is enforced, and there will be a 90-day notification period before TWIC is enforced as law.

“Before we can actually enforce having a TWIC, we need to make sure everyone has the opportunity to get a TWIC,” Fanguy said.

On Oct. 15, truckers, longshoremen and other workers that need port access will begin enrolling at the port of Wilmington, DE.

Port workers in Corpus Christi, TX, will begin enrolling in early November, followed by mid-November enrollment at ports in: Baton Rouge, LA; Beaumont, TX; Honolulu, Oakland, CA; and Tacoma, WA.

In late November, TSA plans to begin enrollment at ports in: Chicago; Houston; Port Arthur, TX; Providence, RI; and Savannah, GA.

Other ports will follow, Fanguy said, though there hasn’t been a defined date as to when port employees must be enrolled. TSA has already missed two congressional deadlines with the program, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office.

The TWIC 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.

More information about TWIC is available at www.tsa.gov.

The standard TWIC fee was reduced from $137.25 to $132.50 after the FBI reduced its criminal background system checks by $4.75. Workers with a current Hazmat endorsement, Merchant Mariner Document or Free and Secure Trade credential may obtain a TWIC card for $105.25.

Two major changes to the were brought about by U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan of Missouri and Sen. Mark Pryor, of Arkansas, who each worked closely with OOIDA to amend the original TWIC rule. The amendments included closing loopholes that allow for CDL fraud particularly related to cross-border trucking.

TSA will have 146 permanent enrollment centers, and many more temporary ones open, Fanguy told senators.

Sen. Thomas Carper of Delaware questioned whether the TWIC program’s background checks and review system would prevent good workers with minor convictions from the past from working in ports.

“We do anticipate having several thousand people with something in their record within those parameters,” Fanguy said. “There are people that may have something in their past, but it is absolutely not our position to keep people from working.”

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer
charlie_morasch@landlinemag.com

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