SSA Marine security head: TWIC is ‘more than heavy lift’

By: | at 07:00 PM | Channel(s): International Trade  Ports & Terminals  

- By Paul Scott Abbott, AJOTThis year’s nationwide implementation of the Transportation Worker Identification Credential program remains a daunting task, but progress is being made, according to Bill L. DeWitt, corporate security director for SSA Marine, which operates four dozen US port terminals, as well as several in other countries.
“Believe me, it’s more than a heavy lift to get everyone all in one line and everyone using the same credential and everyone accepting the cost of it,” said DeWitt, who chairs of the National Association of Waterfront Employers’ Security Committee. “‘God forbid, somebody knows what your Social Security number is.’ That type of stuff.”
Getting everyone on the same page may take time. At the Port of Miami-Dade County, for example, three IDs are being required: A port-specific card, the state-mandated Florida Uniform Port Access Credential and the TWIC.
“I would have one credential,” said DeWitt, a former federal special intelligence officer who sits on the National Maritime Security Advisory Committee’s TWIC Working Group. “It sounds so simple, but it’s very hard.”
Maurine Fanguy, TWIC program manager at the Transportation Security Administration, currently estimates issuance of 1 million of the tamper-resistant biometric credentials to longshoremen, truckers, port employees, US mariners and others whose work requires port access.
About 70% of SSA’s 1,000 employees will need TWICs, according to DeWitt, as will thousands of laborers who work at SSA facilities, including some 12,000 from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union alone. SSA is reimbursing company employees the $132.50 that each of their cards cost while taking the stance that longshoremen should pay for their own.
“You can be easily misled based on what you think it is and based on what it’s trying to achieve,” DeWitt said. “It is fundamentally ‘Security 101.’ It falls back to a fundamental issue of people… People are the mechanism that puts you in jeopardy… People can only be near the target of exploitation based on a reason to be there.”
TSA defines TWIC as, “…a vital security measure that will ensure individuals who pose a threat do not gain unescorted access to secure areas of the nation’s maritime transportation system.”
DeWitt commented, “The TWIC comes down to targeting who the people are, and it really aggravates the honest guy, because the honest guy or girl, they’re saying, ‘Well, I’m not a terrorist. Why are you trying to identify who I am?’ And, an American, they say, ‘Well, you have to protect my privacy.’”
From the standpoint of industry, a key concern is the potential impact on operational productivity.
“If you have a security function that decreases productivity,” DeWitt said, “you’re basically impeding commerce, and you’ll go directly into the bottom line of the industry.
“The industry, believe me, wants the credential,” he continued. “We’ve looked at several ways to do this over the years, and we’ve never been able to figure it out. And those people at TSA, they have a tough job. They’ve come a long way to making this happen.
“But the industry, on my side, is looking at it, and it’s trust, but we’re verifying,” DeWitt added. “We’ve got to ensure that this thing works.”
Costs to terminal operators are of particular concern in the case of multiyear agreements inked prior to 9/11, DeWitt noted.
“Some contracts have a legacy that they don’t even talk about security and the costs for security, of which the TWIC is, and how does the company address that?” he said. “That’s coming out of hide.”
For ocean carriers, security costs, including those associated with TWIC, may even be cause to move certain operations off US ports.
“You may very well see international carriers that will be moving cargo and they’ll find easier routes to do things if the cost of doing business can be decreased or can be eliminated by doing business someplace else,” DeWitt said, citing Mexican ports as one option.
“I know that it has implications on

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For more than a quarter of a century, Paul Scott Abbott has been writing and shooting images for the American Journal of Transportation, applying four decades of experience as an award-winning journalist. A graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, with a master’s magna cum laude from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Abbott has served as president of chapters of the Propeller Club of the United States, Florida Public Relations Association and Society of Professional Journalists. Abbott honed his skills on several daily newspapers, including [em]The Cincinnati Enquirer, The Richmond (Va.) News Leader, Albuquerque Journal and (South Florida) Sun-Sentinel, and was editor and publisher of The County Line, a weekly newspaper he founded in suburban Richmond, Va.[/em] A native Chicagoan, he is a member of American Mensa and an ever-optimistic fan of the Chicago Cubs.