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.