TSA, Coast Guard to release proposed TWIC rules

The Transportation Security Administration and the U.S. Coast Guard have approved Notices of Proposed Rule-Making that would make port workers and merchant mariners the first to use a new biometric security credential program for transportation workers, according to an advance copy of the TSA notice.

The notice for the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) is expected soon in the Federal Register, the notice states.

The Coast Guard is expected to release its own proposed regulation the same day. It would streamline the current credentialing process for merchant mariners and make that process coordinate better with the one for TWIC.

The maritime implementation of TWIC will build on the Coast Guard’s current credentialing programs, the notice states. The Coast Guard must change its regulations to require merchant mariners to have TWIC cards.

TSA would apply the same security threat assessment standards to merchant mariners and workers that it currently does to commercial drivers who transport hazardous materials, the notice states.

Merchant mariners and workers who want unescorted access to secure areas of port facilities and vessels regulated under the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 must have a TWIC card, the notice states. The requirement would apply to longshoremen, employees of port operators, truck drivers, rail workers and others.

Owners and operators of ports and vessels must integrate TWIC into their current access control systems, according to the notice. To participate, facilities and ships must buy card readers and update their approved security plans to include TWIC.

The proposed rules also detail how employers would be notified if a TWIC holder is found to be a security threat.

TWIC will apply to 750,000 workers, who would pay for the program through fees, the notice states. Most workers would pay $149 each, while those with current, applicable background checks would pay about $95. A replacement card would cost $36.

TSA would collect workers’ personal and employee information, photos and 10 fingerprints, the notice states. The agency will screen applicants through criminal background checks and terrorist watch lists, and check their immigration status.

The TWIC document would be a smart card that presents the worker’s name and photo and includes biometric information and numerous means to prevent fraud, the notice states.

The cards would follow Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12, which requires federal workers and contractors to have secure credentials to access federal buildings and information technology networks.

The cards would also adhere to Federal Information Processing Standard 201-1, which outlines technical requirements for the credentials.

TWIC cards would be interoperable with other federal credentials that follow those standards. The cards would be valid for five years.

Each card would contain two electronic chips that hold the user’s encrypted data, the notice states. The data would include minutiae templates of two fingers, a personal identification number and a federal smart card number.

TSA and the Coast Guard are holding four public meetings about how to set up TWIC, the notice states. They will take place May 31 in Newark, N.J.; June 1 in Tampa, Fla.; June 6 in St. Louis, Mo.; and June 7 in Long Beach, Calif.

The agencies will release specific locations and other information about the meetings in another Federal Register notice.

The public has 45 days from the notice’s publication in the Federal Register to comment on it. People can send comments to the Transportation Department’s Docket Management System at dms.dot.gov or the federal rule-making portal at www.regulations.gov.

Submissions should include TSA Docket Number TSA-2006-24191 or U.S. Coast Guard Docket Number USCG-2006-24196 as appropriate.

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