New York seeks more TWIC enrollment centers
More than a year before they will probably be in use, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is seeking an increase in the number of centers for issuing Transportation Worker Identification Credentials, or “TWIC cards,” in an effort to prevent maritime commerce in the port from being disrupted.
“We cannot afford to not get this right,” said Bethann Rooney, manager of port security for the authority’s Port Commerce Department and chair of the Port of New York-New Jersey Area Maritime Security Committee. “That’s why we are taking a very proactive stance.”
Rooney was one of several speakers Tuesday during a seminar on the TWIC program sponsored by the Traffic Club of New York and held in Newark, N.J.
Rooney said the Transportation Security Administration and its private sector contractor Lockheed Martin has been planning to set up three permanent enrollment centers to issue the cards, probably in Manhattan, on Staten Island, and in New Jersey.
“We know that will not be sufficient,” she said. The port is seeking four to six centers to accommodate the crush of longshoremen, truckers, railway workers and men and women from dozens of professions that will need the cards to do their waterfront jobs. Lockheed Martin will also be able to set up mobile registration centers at employers where many workers need to enroll.
Originally, the TSA was expected to begin issuing TWIC cards in March. Now processing is expected to begin in late spring or early summer.
Workers at marine facilities are supposed to have TWIC cards no later than July 31, 2008 and mariners by Sept. 30, 2008.
Rooney said the plan is for cards to be phased in on a region by region basis, with the local Coast Guard Captain of the Port giving 90 days notice when he thinks the TWIC cards should be required at local marine facilities, based on a critical mass of workers being registered.
TSA is expected to begin enrolling workers in New York and other high priority ports later this year after TSA begins a pilot program in the Port of Wilmington, Del., to work out any kinks in the process.
Rooney said the port was told that Lockheed Martin would be able to issue about 60,000 TWIC cards in a nine-to-12-month period, but noted the port already has 65,000 truck drivers in its database. The Maritime Security Committee believes about 130,000 area workers will need the cards initially, including about 40,000 mariners who will be able to get cards at special regional centers for merchant mariners.
TSA estimates that 750,000 waterfront workers will nationally need TWIC cards. Transportation workers requiring “unescorted access to secure areas of the nation's maritime transportation system” will need TWIC cards.
To get them, workers will need to be photographed, fingerprinted, provide documentation such as passports that prove their identity, and have background checks that will assure they are not on a terrorist watch list, that they are in the country legally, and have not committed serious crimes or have served time, been out of jail for five years and earned a waiver for less serious crimes.
Carol N. Lambos, an attorney who serves as counsel for the New York Shipping Association, said one of the problems with the TWIC legislation is a lack of clarity on who needs them.
“If you are threatening someone’s livelihood because you do not have a card, I think the regulations should spell that out clearly,” she said.
Some concerns were raised at the meeting about whether all workers who apply for them will be able to obtain TWIC cards.
Thomas J. Malloy, vice president of the Intermodal Association of North America, cited some estimates that 30 percent to 40 percent of the port driver community may not qualify for TWIC cards.
If those predictions come true, trucking companies may have a heck of a recruiting job ahead of them. He said many trucking companies must interview eight drivers to get one employee.
However, it was noted that owner-operators, not companies with drivers as employees, do much of the drayage in port areas.
Lambos also noted that when the TSA required truckers to obtain hazardous materials endorsements, it was very reasonable in granting waivers with drivers who might have otherwise been disqualified from getting hazmat endorsements.
The TWIC card will cost truckers $137.25 to obtain, and drivers may have to take two days off to visit the TSA registration center to obtain their cards. This is a significant expenditure and hassle for some drivers, especially as some have also had to pay to get a hazmat endorsement, said Gail Toth, executive director of the New Jersey Motor Truck Associations.
“I’m afraid it may drive some good guys out of the industry,” she said.
There have been suggestions that trucking companies might be able to deal with a shortage of drivers who can not qualify for TWIC cards by having qualified drivers relay containers to drivers without TWIC cards just outside of terminal gates. Panelists questioned whether this was realistic, given an existing shortage of space in the port area.
Concern was expressed that some drivers may wait until the last minute to apply for their cards, especially as the five-year time period on the clock will start ticking when they are issued, not when they are actually required.
Lambos suggested that TSA might be able to attract more maritime workers to apply for their TWIC cards early if it offered discounts.