The TWIC: What Is It, Who Needs It, and How Can I Get It

by Michael J. O'Brien

The Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) is a new security measure established by Congress through the Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA) to ensure that individuals who pose a threat do not gain unescorted access to secure areas of the nation’s maritime transportation system. The TWIC is a tamper-resistant “smart card” containing an individual’s biometric (fingerprint) template to allow for a positive link between the card itself and the individual. The TWIC card is valid for five years.  

Workers who require unescorted access to secure areas of ports, vessels, and outer continental shelf facilities will require a TWIC card. This includes mariners holding Coast Guard issued credentials, non-credentialed mariners in a vessel crew, facility employees who work in a secure area, truckers bringing/picking up cargo at a facility, agents, port chaplains, longshoremen, drayage truckers, surveyors, chandlers, and other maritime professionals. Facility security officers and personnel responsible for security duties are also required to obtain a TWIC card. The category of “other marine professionals” would, in this author’s opinion, include attorneys and their experts who may enter a port or other secure area to inspect vessels. 

Owners and operators of vessels and all U.S. credentialed mariners will be required to comply with the provisions of the final TWIC rule by September 25, 2008. Compliance for facilities will be phased in by the Captain of the Port Zone (COPZ), and the compliance date for each zone will be published via notice in the Federal Register ninety days prior to the compliance date. 

To obtain a TWIC card, an individual must provide biographic and biometric information (fingerprints), sit for a digital photograph, and successfully pass a security threat assessment (background check) conducted by the Transportation Safety Administration. The TWIC card costs $132.50, and the fee is payable by Visa or Master Card.   A worker applying for a TWIC card should pre-enroll by calling 1-866-DHS-TWIC (866-347-8942) or online at www.TSA.gov/TWIC. The pre-enrollment process allows a worker to submit the necessary biographic information before enrolling and speed along the process.

After completing the pre-enrollment process, the worker must schedule a fifteen minute appointment at an enrollment center. The appointment can be scheduled on-line. The worker will then meet with a TSA representative who will review the worker’s application data. The worker will then be fingerprinted and photographed. The worker must bring certain identifying documents (state driver’s license, social security card, passport, merchant mariner’s documents, etc.) to the interview. After completing the interview, the worker must pay for the card which will arrive in 6 – 8 weeks. The entire enrollment process is similar to obtaining a driver’s license at a state department of motor vehicles office. 

The Enrollment Center for the New Orleans area is located at 170 James Drive East, Suite 104, St. Rose, LA 70087. The Enrollment Center opens at 6:30 a.m.  The Baton Rouge Enrollment Center is located at the Safety Council for Louisiana Capital Area, 8180 Siegen Lane, Baton Rouge, LA 70810. Finally, the Houston Enrollment Center is located at the West Gulf Maritime Association, 1717 Turning Basin, Houston, TX 77029. 

If you have any questions regarding the TWIC card or the enrollment process, please do not hesitate to contact the author who recently completed the enrollment process and is waiting the 6-8 weeks for his card to arrive.