Eighteen U.S. ports began enforcing a new biometric security card required for truckers and other port workers at 18 different ports Tuesday, Jan. 13, as the Transportation Security Administration staggers the new program’s opening throughout the nation.
Ports beginning TWIC enforcement Tuesday include:
- Baton Rouge, LA;
- Houma, LA;
- Lafayette, LA;
- Morgan City, LA;
- New Orleans;
- Port Fourchon, LA;
- South Louisiana (in LaPlace, LA);
- Key West, FL;
- Miami, FL;
- Palm Beach, FL;
- Port Everglades, FL;
- Port Manatee, FL;
- Tampa, FL;
- Peoria, IL;
- St. Louis, MO;
- Newport News, VA;
- Norfolk, VA; and
- Kansas City, MO.
Many of the ports that began enforcement Tuesday are allowing drivers to provide proof that they’ve applied for TWIC due to a lag in TSA’s TWIC processing blamed on a computer problem in fall 2008.
Until Feb. 13, port workers who haven’t yet picked up their activated TWIC card may use alternative ID at ports in the regions 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 their 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.
- Provide the facility security officer with the worker’s first and last name. That information will be checked using the password-protected portion of homeport.uscg.mil.
One port that began enforcement Tuesday said it saw few problems in enforcing the new standard.
The Port of New Orleans saw a mix of drivers who either had TWIC cards or proof of TWIC application, or who were escorted into less restricted port areas, one official told Land Line.
“It’s going fairly smoothly – we don’t have any major backups,” said Chris Bonura, Port of New Orleans spokesman. “People are generally coming to the gate either with a card or proof that they’ve applied for the card. Or they’ve made some arrangement for being escorted. A few people who don’t have their documentation together are being turned away.”
The Port of New Orleans has divided the port into two categories: areas defined as secure and as restricted.
While all truckers need a TWIC, those without a TWIC card may be escorted by harbor police in groups of five through designated secure areas, Bonura said. Secure and restricted areas often share the same gate, he said.
Did the down economy combined with TWIC enforcement lead to a drop in truck traffic at the port?
“Generally, we’re going to have the same amount of trucks regardless,” Bonura said.
Escorts for those without TWIC isn’t always as easy. The Courier Post newspaper reported in mid-January that some truckers are hiring TWIC-credentialed escorts for fees ranging from $25 to $150.
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 U.S. One filing of the Association’s comments on TWIC can be found here.
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 Friday, Jan. 9, nationally there were 801,831 workers enrolled in TWIC. Of those, 734,341 cards have been printed and 578,676 had been activated. About 136,000 truck drivers have enrolled.
– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer