Examining the US TWIC programme and Foreign Seafarers Risks
At a hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee examining the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC), program, Senator Lautenberg, who chairs the Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security, released an unclassified report from GAO outlining major homeland security risks posed by the ID program currently in use at maritime facilities.
Some of the comments at this hearing, (in this case from Representative John L. Mica) indicate the tone of the criticism of the programme:
“TWIC is turning into a dangerous and expensive experiment in security. Nearly half-a-billion dollars have been spent since the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 directed the Secretary of DHS to issue biometric transportation security cards to maritime workers. Yet today, ten years later, TWIC cards are no more useful than library cards. In fact, the only port that GAO investigators were NOT able to gain access to using fraudulent means was the port that still required port-specific identification for admittance to secure areas.
We have also learned from GAO that:
1. Individuals can obtain authentic TWICs using fraudulent identification documentation;
2. Individuals can gain access to ports using counterfeit TWICs; and that, among other things,
3. TSA is unable to confirm that TWIC holders maintain their eligibility throughout the life of their TWIC”.
In a second report prepared for the Committee on Homeland Security for the House of Representatives, GAO stated that “Federal agencies have taken actions to address risks posed by seafarers, but that efforts can be strengthened”. This report discusses the lack of International implementation of International Labor Office (ILO) 185 (0nly 18 countries have ratified this convention relating to the credentialing of Seafarers, representing 30% of the global seafarer supply). As of January 2011, the United States had not ratified ILO 185 largely due to concerns over a provision for facilitating visa-free shore leave for foreign seafarers. This report can be accessed at: http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d11195.pdf