It seems that the marine industry is faced with at least one controversial federal proposal each year. From oil-spill prevention to training standards to security measures, there’s always something in the pipeline.
And almost always, the industry complains that some aspect of the proposed regulation is flawed. Sometimes the industry has a legitimate beef, and sometimes it doesn’t.
This year’s headliner is the Transportation Worker Identification Card proposal. And with this boondoggle, the industry has a legitimate beef.
The industry railed against the flawed TWIC proposal soon after its release in May, and rightly so.
Despite a ridiculously short comment period, thousands of complaints from marine workers and companies were submitted to the docket. This helped convince the Department of Homeland Security to back off a bit and postpone a portion of the proposal – the expensive ID card readers.
We, along with the American Waterways Operators, the Offshore Marine Service Association and others, support the decision to split the rulemaking into two parts. It makes sense to take the expensive card-reader portion of the rulemaking off the table for now and allow more time for comments. DHS should decide to scrap it altogether for the brownwater industry. (AWO estimates that the towboat industry would shell out over $40 million for the readers.)
While the industry is happy with the postponement, big concerns with the ID cards remain. The process, as proposed, “will make it difficult to attract mariners to this industry,” OMSA President Ken Wells said in an interview (see page 16). “By forcing mariners to apply and receive a TWIC before they apply for an MMD (Merchant Mariner’s Document), the system may create huge delays in getting entry-level personnel to work.”
OMSA has several suggestions to improve the process – all good ones. Wells said they’d like to see the process streamlined by combining the TWIC and MMD applications into one (with one fee and one background check) and allow mariners to work while their applications are being processed.
This makes sense. It makes even more sense to scrap the ID proposal altogether.