Where’s my TWIC hardware store discount?

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?

About the author

Capt. Alan Bernstein

Alan Bernstein, owner of BB Riverboats in Cincinnati, is a licensed master and a former president of the Passenger Vessel Association. He can be reached at 859-292-2449 or abernstein@bbriverboats.com.


  1. Avatar
    Andy Samworth on

    I get the frustration with the TWIC. But I have heard similar ideas about “benefits” extended to mariners or TWIC holders before, because of a “similarity” to active/retired service members (or their IDs). I am a mariner, but not a service member. It feels disrespectful for me to think that I would be entitled to the same benefits (such as those box stores give to honor the services). WW II merchant mariners deserve veteran status and all that comes with it. We modern mariners are not as special as we sometimes think. (We just have way cooler jobs than most!)

  2. Avatar

    Agree entirely with you. I have never been asked to present my card except during annual COIs. Waste of money. It is for port security but going on a cruise in Ft. Lauderdale it was not acceptable form of ID. Imagine that. What a joke. Why would a fully credentialed mariner need a TWIC card?

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