The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the U.S. Coast Guard have signed off on proposed regulations to develop a biometric-based identification card for the nation’s approximately 750,000 port workers – a key component in the larger effort to create a Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC).
“The TWIC is designed to ensure that individuals posing a security threat do not gain access to our nation’s ports,” said TSA Assistant Secretary Kip Hawley. “This proposed rulemaking represents a significant milestone towards putting TWIC on the fast track.”
The TWIC proposal calls for collecting worker’s biographic information including:
- ten fingerprints
- date of birth
- address and phone number
- alien registration number, if applicable
- job title
It also would require background checks, including a review of criminal history records, terrorist watch lists, immigration status, and outstanding warrants, he said. Hawley added that all individuals with unescorted access to secure areas of port facilities and vessels regulated under the Maritime Transportation Security Act would be required to have a TWIC, which including longshoremen, port operator employees, truck drivers and rail workers.
The TWIC card itself will be equipped with “Smart Card” technology so it can contain a worker’s photo, name, biometric information and multiple fraud protection measures, he noted. TSA expects user fees to cover the cost of this ID program, with port workers paying an estimated $139 to receive a TWIC valid for five years, with workers holding current, comparable background checks paying a reduced fee of $105 for the credential.
Hawley stressed that port facility and vessel owners and operators will be required to implement the TWIC into their existing access control systems and operations, purchase and utilize card readers, and update their approved security plans under this proposed plan. He added that TSA extensively tested the TWIC concept last year, issuing more than 4,000 TWIC card prototypes to workers at 26 sites in six states last year.
In addition to this effort, Michael Chertoff, secretary of the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) – the parent agency for both TSA and the Coast Guard – said name-based background checks will begin immediately on approximately 400,000 port workers within the U.S. to help expedite the rollout of the TWIC.