DHS delays TWIC deadline

The Homeland Security Department has pushed back the deadline for implementation of its secure credential for maritime workers by seven months.

States now have until April 15, 2009, to roll out the Transportation Worker Identification Credential that will be issued to port and maritime workers. The compliance goal originally was Sept. 25.

The delay comes as demand for the cards has doubled over initial estimates. In January, the U.S. Coast Guard stated that as many as 1.5 million workers could require the cards.

TWIC provides maritime workers — including longshoremen, merchant mariners, port employees and truck drivers — unescorted access to secure areas of vessels and port facilities.

The Transportation Security Administration has opened nearly 100 enrollment centers nationwide to help issue the cards. Despite this, the program implementation has proceeded slowly. Only 260,000 people had enrolled in the TWIC program by April 30. This is partially because workers must pay for the cards themselves besides losing as much as a day’s work to enroll.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee, praised the delay. He said extra time would help DHS efficiently and effectively issue the credentials to port workers.

“When workers must pay to enroll in a program necessary for them to do their jobs and provide for their families, they have the right to expect reliable, efficient service with little to no interruption to their schedules,” Cummings said.

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