Facing TWIC criticism, TSA temporarily allows alternate ID at ports

| 12/24/2008

Truck drivers and other workers who have wrangled with aggressive enforcement at many ports for the Transportation Worker Identification Credential may get extra time to fully comply – at least for a few weeks.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has been critical of several TSA processes during the TWIC rollout including the price of enrollment and the ability of foreign nationals to access ports without background checks required by TWIC applicants from the United States. One filing of the Association’s comments on TWIC can be found here.

In the face of mounting criticism and problems, the Transportation Security Administration announced this past week that certain ports are allowing port access if workers present acceptable identification and proof that their TWIC card has been printed and is ready for activation.

The new temporary system will revert back to mandatory TWIC card possession for unescorted access through port-defined “secure areas,” with different deadlines for each of three groups of ports.

The first group will be allowed to use the temporary ID system until Dec. 22, including ports located in “Captain of the Port Zones: Boston; Northern New England; Southeastern New England; Cape Fear River; Corpus Christi, TX; North Carolina; Buffalo, NY; Detroit; Duluth, MN; Lake Michigan; Sault Ste. Marie, MI; Charleston, SC; Long Island Sound; Jacksonville, FL; and Savannah, GA.

The second group can use the temporary ID system until Feb. 1, 2009, including ports in Captain of the Port Zones of: Baltimore; Delaware Bay, DE; Mobile, AL; Lower Mississippi River, MS; Ohio Valley; Pittsburgh; and San Diego.

The last group may use the temporary ID system until Feb. 13, 2009. It includes ports in Captain of the Port Zones of Hampton Roads, VA; Morgan City, LA; New Orleans; Upper Mississippi River, MS; Miami; Key West, FL; and St. Petersburg, FL.

Acceptable proof of activation-ready TWIC cards includes:

  • Printing the e-mail sent by TSA during notification process that the TWIC is ready for pick-up.
  • Providing the facility security officer with the applicant’s TWIC application ID number, which can be checked on www.twicinformation.com.
  • Providing the facility security officer with the worker’s first and last name. That information can be checked by the officer, using the password-protected portion of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Web site.

“Captain of the Port’s should work closely with facility owners and operators to ensure that the above policy is implemented to provide equivalent security at Maritime Transportation Security Act-regulated facilities while minimizing impacts on maritime operations and commerce,” read a statement from TWIC’s policy advisory council.

The TWIC program eventually will require more than 1.5 million port employees, longshoremen, mariners, truckers and others who require unescorted access to secure areas of ports to have background checks before being issued cards with their biometric data and residency documentation.

Nationally, TWIC cards will be required for truckers and other port workers who need unescorted access into secure areas by April 15, 2009, although most ports are implementing earlier mandatory TWIC enforcement.

Standard TWIC enrollment costs $132.50, although workers with “current, comparable” threat assessment background checks such as hazmat endorsements, Merchant Mariner Documents or Free and Secure Trade (FAST) cards may obtain a TWIC card for $105.25. The card is designed to last five years.

Replacement cards for those who lose or damage their TWIC card cost $60, according to the TWIC Web site at www.tsa.gov/twic.

According to TSA, as of Thursday, Dec. 11, 725,742 workers nationally had enrolled in TWIC. Of those, 637,262 cards have been printed and 488,713 had been activated. About 120,000 truck drivers have enrolled.

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer