Maritime security: 10 years after 9/11, are we safer?

It’s been almost 10 years since 9/11 and about eight years since the Maritime Transportation Security Act became law. So what does the workboat industry have to show for it besides a big security tab? Not much.

Our editorials on maritime security in WorkBoat and on have been consistent through the years: MTSA was a bad piece of legislation, and has been nothing but a big expensive hassle for the maritime industry. It was hastily passed in the security-crazed post-9/11 mania with little or no input from the industry. It is an administrative nightmare that has come complete with hidden costs, repetitive procedures and overlapping requirements that have, at best, resulted in dubious improvements in security.

For our industry, the biggest waste of the industry’s precious resources has been the Transportation Worker Identification Credential — TWIC. To say TWIC has been fraught with problems and is nothing but an expensive work permit for mariners is an understatement. It is simply a big, costly headache that has no value and does nothing to make the industry safer and more secure.

The TWIC program has been cumbersome, poorly executed, and, as many mariners and operators contend, TWIC cards are totally useless. There is nothing smart about these “smartcards.” TWIC was overkill and has cost the industry millions while falling well short of what Congress thought the cards would do. I agree with those in the industry who have called for a repeal of the portion of the law requiring the cards.

As Alan Bernstein wrote in his June Captain’s Table column, “For my employees and me, the TWIC card has absolutely no value and is a big waste of money.” The industry had hoped that TWIC would allow mariners to consolidate all of their documents, licenses and credentials into one identification card, which would allow the Coast Guard to quickly verify mariners’ credentials. Sadly, this hasn’t happened.

A deckhand on a research vessel wrote me recently saying, “I have yet to use it or be asked to show my TWIC card. Nobody I know has been required to produce it either. I work closely with the Coast Guard and the Navy, and none of them knew how or when to ask for a TWIC card. In my job, they are quite worthless and need to be abolished.”

Enough said.


About the author

David Krapf

David Krapf has been editor of WorkBoat, the nation’s leading trade magazine for the inland and coastal waterways industry, since 1999. He is responsible for overseeing the editorial direction of the publication. Krapf has been in the publishing industry since 1987, beginning as a reporter and editor with daily and weekly newspapers in the Houston area. He also was the editor of a transportation industry daily in New Orleans before joining WorkBoat as a contributing editor in 1992. He has been covering the transportation industry since 1989, and has a degree in business administration from the State University of New York at Oswego, and also studied journalism at the University of Houston.

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