On Oct. 16, port workers, longshoremen, truckers and others at the port of Wilmington, Del., became the first workers in the nation to enroll in the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) program. The program ensures that any individual who has unescorted access to secure areas of port facilities and vessels has received a thorough background check and is not a security threat.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the U.S. Coast Guard have announced other developments including the release of the next 11 ports where enrollment will begin in this month, publication of an updated port site list with additional enrollment locations and a revised final rule that lowered the credential fee to $132.50.

"These developments reflect progress toward the implementation of this important port security measure," says TSA Administrator Kip Hawley. "TWIC is one of the world's most advanced interoperable biometric systems and has a lot of moving pieces. We are now seeing those pieces come together."

Workers at the port of Wilmington started pre-enrollment on Oct. 9 through a link on the TSA Web site. Pre-enrolling online speeds up the process by allowing workers to provide biographic information and schedule a time to complete the application process in person. This eliminates waiting at enrollment centers and reduces the time it takes to enroll each individual.

The revised TWIC rule, posted to the Federal Register on Sept. 28, made a few minor changes to the program. One that will impact every applicant is reducing the fee for obtaining a standard TWIC by nearly $5, which will now cost $132.50. The credential is valid for five years and the fee is below the federal government's original estimate for the credential. The fee includes the cost of the threat assessment, program management, card production and issuance. Workers with current, comparable background checks, including a hazardous materials endorsement on a commercial driver's license, Merchant Mariner's Document or Free and Secure Trade (FAST) credential, will pay a discounted fee of $105.25.

Along with the start date for enrollment at Wilmington, TSA and the Coast Guard also announced the next 11 ports that will begin enrolling in November. They are:

Early November
* Corpus Christi, Texas

* Baton Rouge, La.
* Beaumont, Texas
* Honolulu
* Oakland, Calif.
* Tacoma, Wash.

Late November
* Chicago/Calumet, Ill.
* Houston
* Port Arthur, Texas
* Providence, R.I.
* Savannah, Ga.

The order of ports is based on a variety of factors including risk, geographic location, size and contractor resources. Specific dates for these ports will be released later along with information on other major ports.

More information on the TWIC program is available on TSA's Web site and more information on port security is available at the Coast Guard's Homeport site, homeport.uscg.mil, by clicking on the Maritime Security link.