I have opposed the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) since its inception. TWIC is completely unnecessary for passenger vessel operators. Most passenger vessel operations are small — small enough to know each crew and their backgrounds.
Passenger vessels also have a higher level of security because they are required by law to have a security program. Plus mariners, by their very nature, have always historically maintained the security of their vessels.
But why bring up TWIC now when it seems that most have put the issue behind them? In April, I participated in the Passenger Vessel Association’s Annual Congressional Fly-In in Washington, D.C. We listened to Washington insiders, visited with members of Congress and their staffs, and had an opportunity to discuss many issues.
We thanked congressmen for rescinding the ill-advised federal law requiring passenger vessel operators to install inflatable buoyant apparatus on their vessels. This was a big legislative victory for PVA and it saved operators thousands of dollars in unnecessary expenditures. We also raised the red flag about a proposed regulatory requirement for operators to maintain “official” logbooks and urged Congress to pass the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA). This includes passing the exemption for small passenger vessels from having to submit the Environmental Protection Agency’s Vessel General Permit.
We also pressed Congress to adequately fund the Coast Guard’s inspection mission, which is important to advancing safety.
It was clear from these discussions that regulators have moved past TWIC and are now concentrating on cybersecurity concerns. The Coast Guard and others are studying this issue and examining “what if” scenarios pertaining to the maritime industry.
Is it realistic that hackers will be able to take over the operation of vessels or AIS systems remotely? Maybe, but I’m concerned that like TWIC, new cybersecurity regulations will make regulators feel good but deliver little in terms of real security.
An industry friend told me recently that he tried to use his TWIC at the airport and that a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) worker refused to accept it. I was astounded. The agency that issues TWIC cards does not recognize it as a valid form of identification.
I urge Congress and regulators to think long and hard about how new laws and regulations will affect our industry. As a small business owner, my company and the livelihoods of my employees and crew hang in the balance.
The views and opinions expressed in this post are the author’s and not necessarily those of WorkBoat.