I believe in security. Well before 9/11, I knew I had a responsibility to my passengers, company and crew to implement appropriate measures to ensure their security. This is simply a prudent business practice.
Since the passage of the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002, my company has dramatically expanded security. With the help of the Coast Guard-approved Alternate Security Program developed by the Passenger Vessel Association (PVA), we have been able to accomplish this efficiently and keep costs down.
Like the rest of the maritime industry, we had to obtain Transportation Worker Identification Credentials (TWIC) for all of our marine employees. We felt that our segment of the marine industry did not need TWICs, since many passenger-vessel operations are small enough that they know their employees. Also, most employees are seasonal and some operators have very short operating seasons. Nonetheless we complied with the new law.
The TWIC program has been around for a few years and my opinion has not changed. It has imposed unacceptable costs on my business while failing to enhance security. PVA, the American Waterways Operators and other industry associations have had success getting some relief from TWIC for licensed mariners that work on “non-security” vessels.
While the TWIC story is still incomplete, it has been complicated by the upcoming mandate for TWIC readers to read the biometric information on each credential. Requiring these expensive TWIC readers for small businesses like mine just makes a bad situation worse.
Three PVA members took part in a TWIC reader pilot program. The conclusion? There were no security benefits from TWIC readers. Is our government again overreacting and adding another unneeded cost and regulation?
But there may be a ray of hope. In a joint hearing of two U.S. House committees in Washington last month, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Paul Zukunft said that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) estimates that it will take two years after the final rule is issued before readers are implemented. He said that there are 32 commercial off-the-shelf readers on the market and DHS needs to sort through industry comments to ensure that the readers don’t impede commerce.