There’s usually nothing good about delays. Whether it’s travel, construction, a house closing or a weather holdup at a baseball game, delays are at best inconvenient and at worst extremely costly.
Sometimes, however, putting something off can help produce the desired result. Hopefully that will be the case with the latest delay in the much-maligned Transportation Worker Identification Credential program.
The program’s launch has been fraught with delays, as TWIC has proved to be more complex and time consuming than expected. In June, the Transportation Security Administration announced that it would miss a July 1 SAFE Port Act deadline for beginning TWIC enrollment at 10 priority ports. Now, according to TSA, enrollment at the Port of Wilmington, Del., won’t begin until September or October.
The delay may also lead to an extension of the deadline for mariners to comply with TWIC, now set for Sept. 25, 2008. That would be good news to offshore service vessel operators, inland barge companies and others who continue to grapple with what is shaping up to be a big, expensive bureaucratic mess.
But a hefty bill isn’t the industry’s biggest concern. Companies say the TWIC will discourage new hires at a time when the industry is suffering from a chronic labor shortage. It’s doubtful that a potential recruit will be willing to apply for a TWIC, pay the application fee, and wait until all the background checks are completed before being allowed to go to work and earn a paycheck. “That would turn them off from coming to work for us,” a barge company president said.
Hopefully this latest delay will give the industry enough time to persuade Congress to make a statutory change in the TWIC program that would allow new hires to begin working immediately before having to go through the full TWIC enrollment process.
The best solution would be to scrap the TWIC program for mariners – a program that will do little to prevent terrorism. Short of that, a change that allows a shorthanded industry to crew its boats instead of waiting for the TSA’s bureaucracy to do its job would be a good consolation prize.