The latest chapters in the TWIC saga relates mostly to the biometric issue, although they touch on other topics. First, on August 2, 2018, Transportation Worker Identification Credential Accountability Act of 2018, delayed implementation of a pending Coast Guard regulation (the “reader rule”) which would have required certain higher risk vessels and facilities to use biometrics beginning 23 August of this year. Even more recently, a report on the TWIC program by the Department of Homeland Security’s Officer of Inspector General (OIG) identified a number of challenges and made recommendations to the Coast Guard on the TWIC program, and in how it oversees the security of waterfront facilities. The Coast Guard and the Department of Homeland Security agreed with the OIG’s recommendations.
So what does all this mean for vessel and facility operators?
First, the recent TWIC Accountability Act of 2018 delays implementation of any electronic reader requirement by three years. Of course, Congress could always revise that legislation, and might do so if and when the Coast Guard and DHS complete a previously required report on the TWIC program. But for now, vessels and facilities are not required to use electronic readers.
- The OIG report recommends that the Coast Guard more clearly define the facilities that have certain dangerous cargo (CDC) in bulk and which must use electronic TWIC readers as an access control measure. One issue, yet to be resolved, relates to the presence of bulk CDC on a facility, even if it isn’t transferred to or from a vessel.
Seebald Analysis: At a minimum, facilities that store or handle CDC in bulk, even if they don’t transfer it to or from a vessel, must consider that fact when conducting their required security assessments.
- The OIG report recommends that the Coast Guard improve (i.e. increase) its use of electronic readers to verify TWICs during Coast Guard inspections at regulated facilities.
Seebald Analysis: Expect the Coast Guard to significantly increase the number of electronic TWIC verifications they conduct during routine and unannounced inspections. If they find fraudulent or canceled cards, those workers will not be allowed unescorted access to secure areas. It could also result in fines or penalties.
- The OIG report recommends that the Coast Guard “revise and strengthen” its guidance to its facility inspectors concerning TWIC and related facility security requirements.
Seebald Analysis: Expect greater consistency and attention to detail by the Coast Guard during routine and unannounced facility inspections.
Finally, it is worth noting that a common theme in 10 years of TWIC reports, guidance, laws, and regulations has been that the program is fundamental to maritime security, and that the biometric aspect of the TWIC is a key feature, even as the Coast Guard and industry struggle to quantify and leverage its full benefits. TWIC is certainly here to stay. Coast Guard inspectors will be using their own electronic readers to verify them during inspections, and certain vessel and facility operators will be required to use readers in the future. In the meantime, facility and vessel operators who voluntarily use TWIC readers can keep one step ahead of the Coast Guard – and more importantly, potential threats.