(April 6, 9:26 a.m.) The deadline for compliance of the Transportation Worker Identification Credential program at all ports in the nation is April 14, and the program is moving into its second phase.

TWIC is a biometric security credential required for anyone with unescorted access to secure areas of vessels and other transportation facilities.

Legislators, citing concerns about port security following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, enacted the program through the Maritime Transportation Security Act. TWIC is also required for mariners holding Coast Guard-issued credentials.

The Ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach, Houston/Galveston, Guam, San Juan and Port Arthur are the last five to be required to be in compliance, ending the six-month phase-in cycle.

“Everybody’s been rolling right along with it,” said Lisa Novak, public affairs officer for the U.S. Coast Guard.

A pilot program and second round of Congressional rulemaking will decipher exactly how the identification cards are used.

In its initial stage, TWIC is used for visual identity checks, as well as for vessel and facility inspections conducted by the U.S. Coast Guard.

A pilot program is in place that puts handheld card readers at some of the ports to test their use with vessel and facility owners and operators, according to the Transportation Security Administration’s Web site.

A notice of proposed rulemaking on TWIC was submitted to the Federal Register March 27, and is open for public comment for 60 days, Novak said.

More than 1 million Coast Guard-credentialed merchant mariners, port facility employees, long shore workers, truck drivers and other requiring access to secure areas already have a TWIC.

The TSA estimates more than 1.2 million individuals will apply.

The cards are valid for five years, or the date a comparable credential would have applied, for those who already had Coast Guard-credentials or the like.

In order to be approved for a TWIC, applicants must provide information, including fingerprints and a photograph, which will be included on the card. They also must pass a security threat assessment, which is conducted by the TSA.

The proposed rulemaking outlines a system that separates each vessel and facility regulated by the Maritime Transportation Security Act into one of three groups, based on risk, each with its own regulations for TWIC reader use.

Vessels and facilities falling into the highest-risk group are required to use fingerprint verification at each entry and at each security level.

At the lowest level of risk, which includes nonhazardous material carrying vessels, fewer than 500 passengers, mobile offshore drilling units and offshore supply vessels, the cards are only used as visual identification at all stages of Maritime security.

A final rule on use of the readers will be made after the 60-day response period and after the responses are considered, Novak said.

TSA is responsible for the program itself, while the U.S. Coast Guard is responsible for enforcing it, Novak said.

New worker identification rule up for comment
Petty Officer First Class Robert Fairchild of Coast Guard Sector Honolulu, verifies a Transportation Workers Identification Credential at Young Bros. Jan. 21 in Honolulu, Hawaii. The TWIC cards serve as an additional layer of security for the nation's ports and waterways.

Courtesy U.S. Coast Guard