DHS extends TWIC deadline

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

WASHINGTON--The U.S. Department of Homeland Security last week moved back the final compliance date for the Transportation Worker Identification Credential program to April 15, 2009, which reflects a realignment of the Sept. 25, 2008, original date set in the final rule. The seven-month extension is a result of collaboration with port officials and industry.
TWIC was established in the Maritime Transportation Security Act and the SAFE Port Act to serve as an identification program for all Coast Guard credentialed mariners and personnel requiring unescorted access to secure areas within a port. The program is on track to complete enrollment for a substantial number of jurisdictions by the end of 2008, DHS said, and several ports will be required to comply with TWIC regulations this year.
Unisys and the Port of Los Angeles had been preparing to meet the federal government's Sept. 25 deadline for compliance with the TWIC program, and getting ready to implement a pilot program for an access control systems using smart card and biometric technologies.
The design phase is just about done, but Ted Langhoff, Unisys director of port and cargo security, said the implementation is the trickier part. For example, there isn't yet an approved product list, "so that's going to have an impact on when we execute certain phases of the plan."
Further, as of May 14, according to the TSA only roughly 85,000 TWIC cards had been issued, which is only roughly six percent of the 1.4 million people nationwide who are expected to need the card and are potential visitors to the port--longshoremen, vendors, delivery truck drivers. If visitors have not been issued TWIC cards, they would not be able to participate correctly in the field test.
"Let's say the field test is based on the recent ruling that all visitors to a port who require unescorted access will require a TWIC card," said Langhoff. "If that's the methodology ... you'll only be able to let six percent of the visitors [who required unrestricted access to secure areas] into the port. I don't believe the Coast Guard wants to negatively affect commerce in that way."
Nor would the field test, at current card-issuance levels, accurately monitor how commerce will be affected once all the cards have actually been issued.
Owners and operators of facilities located within Boston, Northern New England and Southeastern New England will need to comply by October 15, 2008. These three ports were selected based on conditions that facilitate near-term implementation. Additional ports will be announced in the coming weeks, and the Coast Guard will provide at least 90 days notice prior to enforcement.
According to DHS, the TWIC program is progressing steadily and has opened more than 100 fixed enrollment centers and dozens of mobile sites nationwide. Enrollment began at the Port of Wilmington, Del., in October 2007.