Tuesday, June 23, 2009

"What's a TWIC?"

I recently posted a photo online that had an image of my TWIC card in it, a reference that drew knowing chuckles from my friends in the maritime industry and bewilderment from those outside of it. “What’s a TWIC?” was the question they all asked.

TWIC stands for Transportation Worker Identification Credential. That’s a bit of a misnomer, because (so far at least), only maritime workers are required to have one. The idea is port security, and every mariner, port worker, and person having access to a port (like truck drivers who haul containers) should supposedly have one by now.

 As with a lot of the post-9/11 homeland security legislation, this program has had a number of problems rolling out, including backlogs at processing centers, a big computer crash back in October, and problems getting card readers up and running, especially on small vessels and at small facilities. Mariners have been frustrated with long delays, yet another set of fees and background checks, and cheapness and general cluelessness on the part of the private contractor administering the TWIC program, Lockheed-Martin.

 The ultimate question is whether the TWIC program is going to make our ports and shipping safer. Maybe. It might help prevent an “inside job” terrorist attack of some kind, but is useless against Somali pirate-style attacks on ships just outside of US ports. Given some of the recent bad press the TSA has gotten over airport security, it’s easy to be cynical and think the TWIC program is politicians trying to look tough on terrorism. To be fair, the little bit of it I have seen in action seems, if nothing else, to give vessel crews in a heightened state of security awareness. It remains to be seen what the full program will accomplish when – or if – it gets up and running.

For more on the ins and outs of TWICdom, see the TSA’s TWIC web page at http://www.tsa.gov/what_we_do/layers/twic/index.shtm

See David Tyler’s “Problems obtaining TWIC cards causing frustrations for many mariners” in the June/July 2008 issue of Professional Mariner at https://professionalmariner.com/ME2/dirmod.asp?sid=420C4D38DC9C4E3A903315CDDC65AD72&nm=Archives&type=Publishing&mod=Publications%3A%3AArticle&mid=8F3A7027421841978F18BE895F87F791&tier=4&id=E11ADF18BC7246D2BD7F4D966AB430AD

An eye-opening, and sometimes painfully hilarious, look at the current state of airport security, is Jeffrey Goldberg’s article “The Things He Carried” in the November 2008 edition of The Atlantic Monthly at http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200811/airport-security

Filed from M/V Spirit of Yorktown in Sitka, Alaska. 

No comments:

Post a Comment