ILWU says ID fix should cover all ports
The West Coast longshoremen’s union said Wednesday it is taking longer to approve an agreement with the Coast Guard on tighter access control measures at the Port of Oakland because it is exploring how to expand the arrangement to all marine terminals along the coast.
“We are trying to work out a system that will work for the entire coast and not just on a port by port basis,” said International Longshore and Warehouse Union spokesman Steve Stallone.
As Shippers’ NewsWire reported Wednesday, the Coast Guard is becoming impatient with the ILWU for not authorizing its local chapter to implement an enhanced system for using identification cards and verification procedures after marine compounds were breached three times by a stowaway last fall.
The current practice is for longshoremen to show up at terminals with their ILWU dispatch ticket without advance notice. Dock workers, truckers and others with business at cargo terminals are able to use a California drivers’ license or a raft of other identification because there is no industry-specific ID card that can be used to get clearance into secure areas of the port.
Under the compromise reached by the union local, terminals represented by the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), and the Coast Guard, longshoremen would have three options to enter dock areas:
* Present a photo ID issued by the PMA along with a ILWU work ticket for that day.
* Present a PMA photo ID and have their name checked against a pre-approved access list.
* Use a PMA smart card with an embedded ID number in a computer chip that can be swiped through a card reader.
Terminal operators are shooting for the third step, which would automatically build a list of people entering the terminals that could be reconciled against a dispatch list submitted by the ILWU at least one hour before the start of the work shift. That option is considered preferable to the first two methods, which are labor intensive and prone to error.
“The big thing is just the sheer number of workers coming into the gate,” said Marc MacDonald, the PMA’s vice president for accident prevention.
The automated entry system would take advantage of card readers installed by the Port of Oakland at a cost of $4 million that have sat idle for months because the Department of Homeland Security has been slow to implement a universal ID card system that could be used interchangeably at all ports, MacDonald said. Three-fourths of the cost was covered by federal port security grants. The machines would activate turnstiles and produce a list of ILWU members entering the facility.
Marine industry officials around the country are frustrated that a Transportation Worker Identification Credential has not been set up after four years of development and testing by the Transportation Security Administration and the Coast Guard. Marine facilities are in limbo, not knowing whether to invest in access control systems of their own or wait for the TWIC program to start. The government would conduct a criminal history background check before issuing a TWIC card. A top DHS official recently told Congress that the TWIC program has been put on the fast track and other officials have said early 2007 is the target date for a phased rollout of the program.
Without the TWIC it is hard for security guards at terminal gates to verify the identity of the cardholder and whether he or she has legitimate business at the terminal.
“We’ve got to be able to apply technology to electronically ID people and dispatch people so we can quickly tell if a person has the right ID and is supposed to be there,” MacDonald said.
The Coast Guard hasn’t sought a coast-wide solution yet because it envisions the Oakland system as a pilot to see if the new ID system works, MacDonald said.