TWIC in effect at more ports

The Homeland Security Department this month added the seaports of Ontonagon, Mich., Canaveral, Fla., and Morehead City, N.C., to the list of facilities that have adopted the technology for the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC).

Those ports are part of several set to be included in the worker-credential project during the next several weeks.

The TWIC program requires a common identity card for all personnel who require unescorted access to port facilities and vessels along with seafarers who hold Coast Guard-issued credentials.

The TWIC smart card includes biometric data of the holder's fingerprints. The program's rules require a thorough background check for employees who receive the TWIC cards to screen out known security threats.

Other ports slated for TWIC program roll outs this month include Victoria, Texas; Kahului, Hawaii; Portland, Ore; Bourne, Mass.; Green Bay, Wis.; Pittsburgh; Texas City, Texas; Kauai, Hawaii ; Salisbury, Md.; and Toledo, Ohio. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) plans call for 147 ports to adopt TWIC technology by the end of 2008.

During the initial TWIC rollout, port entry guards and other security officials will use the credentials as visual 'flash passes.' In other words, the cards' machine-readable biometric features won't come into play because the specialized reading units needed to access that data aren't ready.

TSA has delayed deployment of the TWIC card readers until the agency is satisfied that the reader units will be able to withstand the tough 'environmental' conditions that some of the port and ship locations involve, including temperature extremes along with the presence of various chemicals.

Currently, no ports are required to have readers for the cards. However, until the regular readers are deployed, Coast Guard personnel will check cards from time to time with hand-held scanners to discover forged credentials.

About the Author

Kathleen Hickey is a freelance writer for GCN.

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