From sea to shining sea, U.S. ports are enrolling workers in the TWIC program to thwart potential terrorist threats from entering sensitive areas of our nation’s transportation system.

The TWIC program was established by the U.S. Congress through the Maritime Transportation Security Act and is administered by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the U.S. Coast Guard.

TWICs consist of tamper-resistant biometric credentials for workers who require unescorted access to secure areas of ports, vessels, and related facilities.

According to the TSA, more than 750,000 port and transportation workers will be required to obtain a TWIC.

During the enrollment process, an individual must provide biographic and biometric information such as fingerprints, sit for a digital photograph and successfully pass a security threat assessment conducted by the TSA.

Workers can pre-enroll online to obtain a TWIC and reduce onsite enrollment time. When applying online, the worker provides biographical information and makes a reservation to complete the enrollment process in person at the specific port.

The fee for obtaining a TWIC is $132.50, and the TWIC card is valid for 5 years. A reduced fee of $105.25 is offered to a worker who submits a current, comparable background check.

How will the TWIC be used? During the initial rollout, workers will present their cards to authorized personnel, who will compare the holder to his or her photo, inspect security features on the TWIC and evaluate the card for signs of tampering. In addition, the U.S. Coast Guard will verify TWICs when conducting vessel and facility inspections and during spot checks using hand-held scanners.

A second rulemaking for TWIC will propose enhanced access control requirements, including the use of electronic readers by certain vessel and facility owners and operators.

Enrollment and issuance of the TWIC cards began at the Port of Wilmington, Del., on Oct. 16, and Charleston is the 17th U.S. port to enroll in the program. Other cities that have enrolled this November include Baltimore, Chicago, Honolulu, Houston and Minneapolis. Approximately 130 additional ports are slated for enrollment through September 2008.

For additional information about TWIC, included dates of deployment at U.S. ports, visit the TSA Web site: http://www.tsa.gov/.