Lt. j.g. Stephanie Young, a Coast Guard spokeswoman, said TSA decided two weeks ago to allow entry to truckers and port workers without a TWIC because a recent system failure had caused a backlog in issuing the credentials.
To gain entry without a TWIC, a worker must present a photo identification card and proof that his or her TWIC has been printed and is ready for activation, according to an April 2 Coast Guard statement. The fact that a TWIC is ready for activation proves the individual has successfully completed a law-enforcement background check, Young said.
The alternative method of entry will be in effect only until May 13. After this date, only individuals with a valid TWIC will be eligible for unescorted access to facilities regulated by the Maritime Transportation Security Act, the Coast Guard said.
As of last week, TSA said that nearly 1.1 million port and dockworkers, truckers and others at ports across the nation had enrolled for the card, but only 890,000 cards had been issued.
On average, TWICs have been ready for activation three to four weeks after initial enrollment, primarily because of the time re-quired for the background checks, TSA said.
“We encourage all workers that, once we let them know their card is ready to be activated, to come in and do so,” said Greg Soule, a TSA spokesman.
Plagued by a number of technological and other glitches, TSA’s security system contractor, Lockheed Martin Corp., has been playing catch-up in TWIC enrollment for the past year.
Port workers originally were required to have the TWIC by Sept. 25, 2008, but the deadline was extended to April 15 in May last year.
The TWIC was developed in response to legislative provisions of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act of 2001, which Congress passed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The actual national compliance deadline is April 15, but Coast Guard officials at the last five ports to begin requiring the TWIC — Los Angeles/Long Beach, Guam, Houston/Galveston, San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Port Arthur, Texas — actually will begin requiring the credential beginning April 14, Soule said.
Besides the estimated 1.2 million workers who will need the biometric security credential to gain unescorted access to secure areas of the nation’s maritime transportation system, all Coast Guard registered mariners will need the identification card.
Soule said TSA is still uncertain how many port workers will apply.
“It’s a transient and seasonal population,” Soule said, “so it’s hard to nail down exactly how many people will need a TWIC.”
The TWIC enrollment process has been the target of congressional criticism and was faulted for delays in a Government Accountability Office report last year (9-29-08, p. 3).
Soule said that TSA expects workers to continue enrolling employees after the mandatory compliance date.
To meet last-minute demand, the agency recently added a “surge of new resources,” opening new activation centers in Houston, Los Angeles/Long Beach, New Jersey and Baton Rouge, La.