I visited Annapolis, Md., last weekend on a beautiful, sunny day, with the intent of showing off this lovely city on the Chesapeake Bay to relatives visiting from abroad. We decided to take a boat tour on Watermark’s 225-passenger Harbor Queen. As we lined up to board the 65′ riverboat, I started chatting with one of crew, a licensed captain, and of course the subject of TWIC came up.
Watermark has a lot of experience with TWIC, as the company is one of several across the U.S. that have participated in the pilot program to test TWIC readers in advance of the long-awaited release from the Coast Guard of the reader rule. The readers will check the identity of the cardholder and the validity of the credential, all part of post-9/11 maritime security legislation aimed at making U.S. vessels and ports more secure from terrorist threats.
There have been many problems implementing TWIC, and congressional lawmakers, mariners and others have all criticized the cost, necessity and management of the program.
The captain told me that although testing for the TWIC reader on Watermark’s fleet of tour boats had a lot of problems, his experience renewing his credential under the TSA’s new Extended Expiration Date (EED) procedure was a breeze.
The EED was rolled out in August to offer eligible cardholders the chance to replace their expiring credentials for three years, rather than five years for the standard TWIC.
He said he called the TWIC Help Desk and a helpful operator collected his information, $60 payment, and completed his replacement card order over the phone. He made just one trip to a nearby enrollment center to pickup and activate his new card. He was surprised how easy and pleasant it was.
Thousands of TWICs will be expiring before the end of the year, and TSA suggests that mariners begin the replacement process within 30 days of the expiration date.
TSA is also offering mobile enrollment and activation services for interested companies, as well as bulk payment options for EED card renewals, beginning late November.
If you’ve already gone through the renewal process, tell me what was your experience like and drop me a line. This could be one of the few positive stories that we’ve had to tell about TWIC.
You can reach the TWIC Help Desk at 1-866-347-8942. For mobile enrollment, contact Stephen Foster, Lockheed Martin TWIC manager, at 703-663-5105.