Port of Portland retrospective on TWIC implementation

As of February 28, 2009, those requiring access to the secure areas of the marine terminals at the Port of Portland in Oregon have been required to have a  Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) in hand or an approved escort to accompany them. The first phase of this federally required programme has
since rolled out nationally.

Affecting literally every U.S. port and those who work there, the implementation of the first phase of the national programme was a longstanding concern for ports, businesses and individuals across the country. In Portland, however, thanks in part to advance planning and communications from port officials, the enforcement deadline came and went largely without incident.

Background

After a series of delays in recent years, the on-again, off-again implementation of the first phase of the new TWIC requirements began at select ports in late 2008.  Security wise, it makes accessing marine terminals a lot more like accessing the airfield at an airport.

“If you show up to work at an airport, you can’t enter a secure area without a proper badge,” said Dan Pippenger, marinesecurity manager with the Port of Portland. “That’s the way it is now at our Port’s marine terminals and at other marine terminals across the country.”

Commonly referred to as TWIC, the universal identification system requires submitting to extensive background and citizenship checks, payment of a US$132.50 fee, and collection of biometric data to be used in the planned next phase of implementation.

Mandated by Congress on the heels of the 9/11 attacks, the programme aims to ensure that workers who are granted unescorted access to secure areas of U.S. Coast Guard regulated marine facilities and vessels do not pose a criminal or terrorist threat.

Congress, through the Maritime Transportation Security Act, directed the Department of Homeland Security to issue the credentials. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was the lead agency for the programme’s development and deployment while the Coast Guard is the lead agency for enforcement.

Enrolment begins

The Port of Portland has four marine terminals handling autos, containers, grain, mineral bulks, liquid bulks, steel, and other breakbulk. Just as the Port handles a variety of cargo, it also has a wide variety of individuals subject to TWIC requirements.

Port workers, longshoremen, truckers, rail workers, and others who require unescorted access to secure areas, began to enrol in January 2008. Portland was one the first ports in the nation to begin enrolment in 2008, with the opening of a processing centre near the Port’s marine terminals in North Portland.

Pre-enrolling online

sped up the process by allowing workers to provide biographic information and schedule a time to complete the application in person, a process, which in some cases, took up to eight weeks. Individuals applied for, and upon passing the background screening, received a TWIC – after at least two visits to the office.

Although the process went smoothly for the most part, there were a few glitches including occasionally long wait times, the machines could not read fingerprints, and some received faulty cards that had to be reordered.

Besides the added cost of US$132.50 per application, the Port and its customers also experienced several hours out of the office per person while they were travelling to and from appointments and again when the cards were ready to be picked up.

Port of Portland, Oregon, USA
Edition: Edition 43

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