TWIC: Still useless and costly

In the August issue of WorkBoat, we revisit the controversial, reviled, useless, costly and burdensome (insert adjective here) Transportation Worker Identification Credential program.

It is in the headlines again (and D.C. correspondent Pam Glass writes about it in the next issue) because another TWIC regulatory deadline looms in August and mariners have been urging the Trump administration to curtail or abolish it as part of the president’s plan to trim federal regulations.

TWIC was created as a security enhancement program after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. As most of you know, it requires workers to pass background checks and be issued a biometric credential in order to have unescorted access to certain secure areas of the transportation system, including ports, maritime facilities and vessels.

Almost every mariner must carry a TWIC. I agree with them when they say (which mariners have been doing since its creation) that the card is a costly and unnecessary burden with little or no security value.

The program includes two parts (both bad, excessive and unneeded) — the TWIC card itself thats issued to mariners, and the electronic readers used to inspect the cards. While the credentialing is largely complete, and renewals are already underway, the readers are just now coming into compliance.

A look at the docket for the Office of Management and Budget’s request for comments on “Maritime Regulatory Reform” reinforces the deep dislike mariners have for the TWIC program. One called it “a laughable waste of time and money for seafarers,” while others questioned TWIC’s security value and the quality of the background checks, asserting that requirements are so loose that “almost anyone can obtain one.”

“Basically, the entire (TWIC) program is completely useless, a waste of time and resources, and they do not make the ports any safer,” wrote John Nelson.

“This device has cost the transportation industry a tremendous amount of money and adds no value whatsoever,” wrote Stephen Banet of Wepfer Marine Inc. “Created and issued by the TSA, yet it is not accepted by the TSA as a valid identification to board an aircraft at an airport. I ask, what good has it done?”

Absolutely nothing.

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.

22 Comments

    • Jim Blankenship on

      Houston Hobby, Houston Intercontinental, Dallas Love, are just a few that refused me passage using the TWIC card. A truly useless, expensive card.

      • Jim, I ONLY use my TWIC at airports, and live in Houston and fly in/out of Hobby on a regular basis. Never had an issue here. JFK gave me problems, so I had a supervisor come out and educate the front-line worker. All was cleared up.

        • Captain Bruce Gregory on

          The fact that you had to get a supervisor to intervene shows the right hand ignoring the left.

  1. Capt. Grant Westerson on

    Statements above are pretty much on point, although I’ve been successfully using mine at airports for 4-5 years with few exceptions (O’Hare). After two renewals and the driving, waiting, phone calls, and writing checks, I was finally asked last week for it by Homeland Security. Big woop! Waste of money but more of a waste of time and efforts. The program needs to be dropped.

  2. I use it at TSA checkpoints in airports every time I fly. What do you mean it’s not valid to board a plane?

  3. Jim McGinty on

    I am a retired member of the Massachusetts Port Authority. I was the Fire Marshal for Massport in the Port of Boston. I inspected all of the Ports waterfront facilities including the Cruise Terminal, container Terminal, Fish Pier, and several other Massport Maritime Facilities. I was required to have a valid TWIC in order to gain access to these facilities.
    At the request of USCG Boston, I attended a meeting at the Coast Guard Base in Boston. Upon entering the Base, I was requested to show a valid ID. I presented my TWIC and it was handed back to me advising that it was not an acceptable means of identification. After all the BS to get this card and then be told I could not access a Coast Guard Base with it. Pathetic. Thank God I retired.

  4. TWIC’s were always so ineffectual that it’s hard to see why they were ever even given serious consideration. Almost all of the locations that are (sort of) barricaded on the land side are easily accessible by small boats. Many of the fences are merely for show. In a lot of these locations it’s very easy just to walk around the fences. It’s almost always been for show and a needless, costly expansion of the federal government and an additional burden for industry. Small airports have even had to put up expensive fences financed by the federal government and the gates are almost always wide open.

  5. Michael Haines, Alaska on

    I have to agree with the sentiments expressed above. I live in Rural Alaska and it cost me about $500 to get my first issuance with travel and hotel costs – add insult to injury, I had to do it twice to get the card, once for initial application and the second time to pick up the card in person. Now link this card carrying requirement to your USCG Deck license renewal and you’ve created the perfect HATE STORM. I am required to carry and present a card in order to get my deck license renewed — that card CANNOT be used for identification by the federal agency that requires it to renew your deck license — a self-confession of it’s uselessness — and I have NEVER, EVER been asked to present it except to renew my deck license. End result. . . . . . . . because I am no longer actually sailing under my license — I gave it up rather than have to go through the governmental BS and expense associated with TWICs. What a pathetic governmental joke the generated a lot of revenue for a government contractor and has cost hard working mariners millions of dollars since it’s inception. LET THEM EAT CAKE !!

  6. TJ McDermott on

    While I agree with almost everything stated in the article, Mr. Banet has one thing wrong in the last paragraph. TSA does in fact accept a TWIC at TSA security in airports. I’ve used mine since I received it to pass through TSA security on every USA domestic flight I’ve taken.

    Its one positive feature is that it will work at TSA airport security when my Washington State driver’s license will not in October 2018.

    • An enhanced license can get you through security as a washington state resident. I have one and it works great.

  7. The TWIC Card is a sham and a scam for the contractor to make money. Nothing else. TSA will not accept the card as a form of ID. The TWIC Office will NOT accept the card as a form of ID. Explain that one to me please. Even the Drivers License Office will accept the Drivers License as an ID. The TWIC Card is expensive and useless.
    To hold a USCG License the mariner is already screened for a security background check. The TWIC Card is redundant.

  8. Captain Edward von Bergen on

    Another speed bump to the movement of working people to get their jobs. Feckless! It the way our government works; again feckless.

  9. TWIC is an absolute joke. Absolutely useless. Always will be. It created more unnecessary Government Jobs. Redundancy at its worst. All the Ports honor their security and their security Port passes only. TSA honors their security passes and theirs only, ignores it and it means nothing to them going through security with TWIC, MMO LIC, CDL HAZMAT No respect still treated like a criminal. THERE WAS NO NEED FOR IT FROM THE BEGINNING !
    PLEASE PRESIDENT TRUMP ABOLISH THIS WASTE! DRAIN THE SWAMP!

  10. Capt. MICHAEL Tyner on

    I had worked at the FedEx hub in Memphis for a time and they did not know of the TWIC card….

  11. Our MMD should be accepted at ports and the “speed line” at airports in lieu of a TWIC since the government already has all the pertinent info and fingerprints. Let’s bring back the Z-card.
    The other persons at ports such as stevedores and port administration usually have to get the port’s own identification card which then leaves the truck drivers coming into the port. They should be the only ones which need some sort of TWIC.
    As I see it the TWIC was a alarmist reply to the big early 2000s terrorism scare which is another rice bowl program creating jobs. And from what I understand it is a third party US company, not the US
    government, who has been taking all our personal information. I feel safer already…

  12. karl ashenbrenner on

    I have had my twic denied as id at multiple airports over the past 10 years. A total waste of time and money.

  13. Jerold Tabbott on

    TWIC is not always recognized and accepted by TSA at airports, but that spotty compliance is because they are poorly trained bureaucratic drones. My personal feeling is that if you have a TWIC, you should be allowed through the pre-check line at airports. Pre-authorization is what TWIC is about.

    It has amazed me since the beginning of TWIC that almost no port authority terminals had scanners, since that is one of the positive features of the card. Scanners have been ever so slowly introduced, but I’ve only seen one port in the entire Southeast where this feature has been intelligently utilized to ease the flow of gate traffic (Port Manatee).

    Lastly, the credential process, which was previously handled in most ports by port authority personnel, has in recent years been replaced by a single inept private company, probably owne by someone related to an influential congressman. Not only has the cost doubled, but to ensure maximum profits they have eliminated renewals. Everyone must pay full (substantially higher ) fees every time. The only rational purpose for this new practice is to generate higher revenues for the mandate sole provider. Moreover, even those holding current valid TWICs have to provide full documentation – i.e., birth certificates or passports – again. Port Authorities, most of which have redundant badging of their own, did a far, far superior job.

    I am not opposed to requiring a TWIC to enter port areas. However, I find it insulting to see how incompetently it has been deployed and managed. Moreover, the dual credentialing required by many ports is an expensive redundancy to those who must have access to perform their jobs. I have to keep over eight badges, including the TWIC to assure my access into the various Southeast ports where I work. One TWIC should be enough.

  14. Captain Bruce Gregory on

    More of the same me too checks and balances for the additional money they can capture and piss away. In NJ for example, walk up to a NJ Motor Vehicle counter to get a boat operators endorsement on your driver’s license. They will ask for you for proof of your attendance and completion of a NJ approved Boater’s Safety Course. Show them instead your TWiC and a USCG Mariner’s book with your Master’s #### Ton endorsement and you will be denied the drivers license change. Are you effen kidding me? The state gets some of the funds that are going into that program and don’t give a darn about your mariner’s credentials and what they have cost you in experience and money you have spent over the years to the USCG to maintain those credentials.

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