On the Waterfront

New-Kathy-Bergren-Smith-Blog TWIC gears grind on blogger

November 8, 2012

I read Pam Glass' blog last week about TWIC renewal requests overwhelming the TSA, and then experienced it firsthand. My card will expire on Dec. 10, 2012, and I need it to do my work at the Port of Baltimore. Now, keep in mind, anyone wishing to access the Baltimore marine terminals also has to have a Maryland-issued card. So you need two cards, the Maryland Port Administration card is scanned at the gate, and in a weird ritual, the security guards must touch your TWIC, like a talisman or a religious relic.

There are two options to renew an unexpired TWIC. One — start from scratch and get a new 5-year card. Or spend $60 and get a 3-year extension to your card (Extended Expiration Date or EED). That is cheaper and only requires one trip to the TWIC office. This would be a good option, if you could do it online. But no, you must call the "Help Desk" to extend your deadline.

So, I dialed 1-866-347-8942 and waited a full hour on hold, taunted by two alternating recorded messages letting me know I was on hold. Yes, be prepared for a full hour on hold. Then, a man came on, verified my identity, and within three minutes said he was "transferring me to the payment center" so I could give them my credit card info. Ok, I agreed. The phone on the other end began to ring, like someone at a desk would pick it rang 10 times, 20 times, 50 times...had the payment person gone to lunch? Was I transferred to the wrong extension? I waited and wondered for five minutes, then thought about my cell phone minutes and hung up.

Later on, from a landline, I dialed the "Help Desk" again. After another FULL HOUR on hold a nice woman took my $60. I conversationally asked her just what the deal is there at the "Help Desk"? Are there 50 people or five? She indicated the place is woefully understaffed, and she was stressed out by being yelled at by frustrated transportation workers.

Why? On every level this is ridiculous. We have to buy cards so a security guard can touch them because they have yet to invent a card reader. In order to extend the expiration date, we have to spend more money and set aside at least an hour to be on hold. Then go back and wait in person to get a new card. I don't get it. It is just plain wrong to demand people get these cards but then create so many obstacles to getting them.

Expand/View Comments -  1 Comments
11/09/2012 10:58:12 Christopher Olmsted says:

The point of these cards was they contained biometric info, so why do they expire? Finger prints and etc. don't change. The whole program is flawed and the only thing it has accomplished is that it proves that our Government cannot comunicate at the inter or intra department levels and the contractor is ripping off the twic holders by wolefully understaffing centers.


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