Washington Watch

Pamela Glass Mariners overwhelm TSA with TWIC renewals

November 1, 2012

Call it the TWIC version of a Hurricane Sandy story.

Mariners have flooded the Transportation Security Agency with so many TWIC renewal applications that the system is overloaded, and TSA is calling out for help.

In August, TSA launched a new alternative to deal with the expected onslaught of applications as hundreds of TWICs began to expire. Available now is the option of a three-year renewal rather than a five year that costs less ($60), and would require no new biometrics evaluation and only one trip to the enrollment center instead of two.

Mariners have jumped at the cheaper, short-term Extended Expiration Date (EED) card, with many cardholders requesting an EED as much as two years before their expiration dates. This has resulted in busy signals and long wait times at the TWIC Help Desk, as the EED applications can be handled by phone.

Huge demand for the short-term extension could indicate that mariners remain skeptical and nervous about long delays and hassles with the five-year extension that requires the biometrics, especially given TSA’s early performance during the rollout of the TWIC program.

To avoid difficulties, TSA is now recommending that TWIC holders contact the Help Desk no sooner than four months prior to a card’s expiration date. The number is 1-866-347-8942.

In the meantime, the maritime community is seeking a longer-term relief to one of the most vexing issues of the TWIC application process: the requirement that mariners make two trips to the enrollment center — one to supply their biometrics information and the second visit to receive and activate the credential. Mariners complain that the second trip is costly, unnecessary and highly inconvenient for their work schedules.

Language in the Coast Guard authorization bill, which supporters hope will be considered by Congress in the lame duck session after the November elections, will eliminate the second trip requirement to pick up the card.

Mariners, before you vote next week, don’t forget to tell your congressman and senator that this issue is important to you.

Expand/View Comments -  3 Comments
02/19/2013 13:37:49 Mike Kmetz says:

I spent the better part of a day trying to get through to the TWIC folks for the EED, and never made it. Ended up applying for a full 5-year renewal instead, with the only available slots being over a month away! I have to be back on my ship the first week of May, and with a 6-8 week processing time (as their own site says) this is a serious problem.

11/17/2012 19:28:43 Buddy Toups says:

I just renewed my card for 5 years and it came in a week after. So I don't see the overload of renewals. I think the system is just makeing a lot out of nothing, and your supporting it. Capt. Buddy Toups

11/16/2012 14:25:18 Jim Peschel says:

I heard about the long wait on the phone for the short term extension, so I simply stopped by the TWIC office in Seattle to apply in person for a full renewal. I had no appointment and there was only 1 person in front of me in line. By the time I completed the paperwork it was my turn for processing. Applicants need 2 forms of ID and the TWIC with a drivers license is sufficient (no passport necessary). Just 7 days later I was notified that it was ready for pick-up. I dropped in without an appointment and was 2nd in line. The 2nd process took less than 15 mins. This may be an anomaly in a busy port like Seattle but I had an excellent experience. I let the staff member know he is doing an excellent job and he was pleased with the positive feedback.


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