The Port of Houston Authority successfully implemented the federal Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) this week, in compliance with the deadline for the US Houston-Galveston sector. In fact, two PHA facilities, Care and Barbours Cut terminals, were spot-inspected by US Coast Guard and found to have no deficiencies. The TWIC program aims to ensure that individuals who pose a threat do not gain unescorted access to secure areas of the nation’s maritime transportation system. Beginning today, anyone needing unescorted access to secure areas of the Port of Houston Authority, as well as any federally regulated facility along the Houston Ship Channel, must either have a TWIC card or be escorted while on the property. “The Port of Houston Authority (PHA) has worked diligently over the last few years preparing for today’s implementation and I am pleased to report that the process is proceeding smoothly,” says Wade M. Battles, PHA acting executive director. “We will also continue to work with the US Coast Guard to address any challenges and issues associated with the startup of this program.” The purpose of the TWIC program is to increase security at US seaports by providing a common identification credential for transportation workers. Anyone applying for a TWIC card must pass a threat assessment.
The TWIC is a “smart card,” which contains the worker’s name, photo and biometric information (fingerprint template). To obtain a TWIC, an individual must successfully pass a security threat assessment conducted by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which looks at criminal background, immigrant status, terrorist watch list screening as well as mental capacity. It takes an average of 21 days from application to receive the credential. “Ensuring a safe and secure port is a top priority of the Port of Houston Authority,” says Battles. “And as part of that effort, we support the TWIC program. It is a needed credential to improve the security of MTSA (Maritime Transportation Security Act) facilities by providing individual background checks and a tamper-resistant identity credential.” Individuals who are required to have a TWIC include certain PHA employees, longshoremen, truckers, steamship lines personnel, stevedores and vendors. Nationwide, nearly one million individuals have already enrolled in TWIC. Nearly 300,000 people are required to have a TWIC card in the Houston region.