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What is a TWIC card and who needs them?

Transportation is a crucial aspect of our daily lives, especially when it comes to the shipping industry. With millions of goods transported every day, ensuring the safety and security of these shipments is of utmost importance. One significant measure taken to maintain this security is the introduction of the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) card. In this blog post, we will discuss what a TWIC card is and why some carriers need them.

What is a TWIC Card?

A TWIC card is a biometric identification card issued by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in the United States. It was introduced as part of the Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA) of 2002. There’s a lot of acronyms here.. The primary purpose of this card is to provide a more secure credential for workers who require unescorted access to secure areas of the nation's maritime facilities and vessels.

The TWIC card contains an individual's photograph, name, serial number, and an integrated circuit chip. This chip stores the holder's fingerprints and other personal data, ensuring that only authorized personnel can access restricted areas.

Who Needs a TWIC Card?

TWIC cards are required for individuals who work in the maritime industry and need access to secure areas in ports, vessels, and other maritime facilities. Some examples of people who may need a TWIC card include:

Longshore workers

Truck drivers with access to port facilities

Port facility employees

Vessel crew members

& Coast Guard-credentialed merchant mariners

It is important to note that not all carriers or transportation workers need a TWIC card. Only those who require unescorted access to secure areas within the maritime transportation system are required to obtain one.

Why Do Some Carriers Need TWIC Cards?

Well, there’s a few reasons..

1. Security

One of the main reasons carriers need TWIC cards is to ensure the security of the nation's maritime transportation system. By limiting access to secure areas to only those with a valid TWIC card, the risk of unauthorized individuals gaining access to sensitive information or compromising the safety of maritime facilities is significantly reduced.

2. Compliance with Regulations

The MTSA mandates that all personnel requiring unescorted access to secure areas within the maritime transportation system must possess a valid TWIC card. Carriers and other transportation workers need to obtain a TWIC card to comply with these regulations and avoid potential fines or penalties.

3. Streamlines Access

Having a TWIC card allows carriers to enter secure areas without needing to undergo additional security checks each time they visit a facility. This streamlined process saves time and reduces the hassle for both the carriers and the facility operators.

4. Trust and Accountability

TWIC cards help establish trust between carriers, facility operators, and regulatory authorities. Since the cards are issued only after a thorough background check, they serve as proof that the holder has been deemed trustworthy and poses no security threat.

What is the process for a driver to obtain a TWIC?

There are several steps, but it is not overly complicated.

Here's a detailed breakdown of the process:

1. Application

The first step in obtaining a TWIC card is complete the online application via the official TSA TWIC website. There are a few pages of personal information you will need to complete but it is all pretty simple Q&A. And all the questions are about yourself so you’re not gonna want cheat.

2. Schedule an Appointment

After completing the application, schedule an appointment at a nearby TWIC enrollment center. You can find a list of enrollment centers on the TSA TWIC website. It is recommended to make an appointment. Walk in’s are accepted but the TSA does not pay detention.

3. Prepare Required Documents

Before attending your appointment, gather the necessary documents to prove your identity and eligibility.

So, let’s take a look at who is eligible and who is not. The following is directly from the TSA website:

“You may apply if you are a U.S. citizen, lawful permanent resident, naturalized citizen or a nonimmigrant alien, asylee, or refugee who is in lawful status.

Applicants may be ineligible due to:

Incomplete or false application information.

Disqualifying criminal offenses and other factors.”

You will need to bring: A valid government-issued photo ID (e.g., driver's license or passport)

Proof of citizenship or immigration status (e.g., birth certificate, naturalization certificate, or permanent resident card).

You can find a complete list of acceptable documents on the TSA TWIC website.

During your appt, you will:

Present your identification and eligibility documents

They will take your fingerprints for biometric data collection..

Have your photograph taken for the TWIC card

Pay the required fee (which at time of this recording is $125.25, and there is a reduced fee for eligible applicants only $93.00)

So, who is eligible for the reduced fee? Again quoting “To be eligible for the reduced rate you must present a valid driver license with a hazardous materials endorsement, or a Free and Secure Trade card. Please note, if you select the reduced rate, your new TWIC card will be valid for five years from the chosen document’s issuance date.

Ok, that last part is important. This may not actually save you money. Notice how it says “If you select the reduced rate, your new twic card will be valid for 5 yrs from the chosen documents issuance date. For example, if your hazmat endorsement was issued 3 yrs ago, your new “discounted” TWIC is only good for another 2 yrs. Meaning you would be paying $46.50 / yr vs the “non discounted” $25.05 / yr. In that scenario, the discounted rate is almost twice as expensive.

5. Background Check

Once your application is submitted, TSA will conduct a security threat assessment, which includes a thorough background check. This process evaluates your criminal history, immigration status, and any potential security threat indicators.

6. Receive Your TWIC Card

If your application is approved, you will receive your TWIC card by mail within 7-10 business days after the completion of the background check. You can have it mailed to your home or the TSA application center for pickup. If you lose your card you can submit for a replacement, again, right on the site. Replacement card as of time recording are $60. Remember, that a TWIC card is valid for five years, after which you will need to renew it following a similar process right on the TSA website.

In conclusion, a TWIC card is an essential security measure implemented to protect the integrity of the nation's maritime transportation system. Some carriers need them to gain unescorted access to secure areas, comply with regulations, streamline their operations, and establish trust within the industry.

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