Last month, the Coast Guard called and said that they had some exciting news for me. My mind quickly began to mull over the possibilities of what this exciting news was.
The caller told me that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) had finally ruled that the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) could now be accepted as a government ID. I cannot tell you how disappointed I was. As many say, this was a gigantic “nothing burger” for me.
For years, we all heard rumors that you could use your TWIC card at the airport to quickly get through security. That turned out to be untrue. Another rumor was that you could use your TWIC to get a discount at one of the major hardware stores such as Home Depot. That also turned out to be false. We were told that all transportation workers in the U.S. would be required to have a TWIC. That was false. Only mariners and truckers that enter ports are required to have a TWIC.
Over the years I have criticized TWIC, saying it is one of the most ineffective TSA programs. Let me stress that security aboard vessels is extremely important to me and to other vessel operators. That is why my company uses the Alternate Security Program (ASP) developed by the Passenger Vessel Association and approved by the Coast Guard.
TWIC was never intended to verify identities or provide access control, except maybe at U.S. ports. It was intended to root out the bad guys through background checks before they got on vessels. Many of my employees have been with me for many years. I know them and their families. For them, obtaining a TWIC is an inconvenience and unnecessary expense.
At the very beginning, TSA had a tremendous opportunity to get everyone in lock step by making the TWIC card the only credential that a mariner needed to carry by adding mariner licenses and endorsements to the card. That fell on deaf ears. So, mariners ended up with a TWIC that has little value to anyone outside of TSA and still costs each of us $140.
Is it possible that the TSA could abolish this program if a vessel operator had an ASP or a Coast Guard-approved security program? It could save companies thousands of dollars.
If this is impossible, can I at least use my TWIC card to get a discount at my local hardware store?