Florida port implements TWIC program

Jan. 13--MANATEE -- Port Manatee is adding another security measure today as part of a federal identification program being enforced by the U.S. Coast Guard at seaports nationwide.

Port employees, longshoremen and truckers now are required to carry a new security identification badge, known as a Transportation Worker Identification Credential, to gain admittance to secure areas of ports, vessels and terminals.

The new IDs, established through the Maritime Transportation Security Act, are expected to ensure port workers have received thorough background checks.

Steve Tyndal, director of trade development and special projects at Port Manatee, said employees were subject to a background check with the FBI. The photo IDs also required workers to submit fingerprints that will act as another form of verification.

"The cards have biometric verification so if a card is lost or stolen and someone attempted to gain entrance, we would know there was a security breach," Tyndawl said.

Frank Holden, director of seaport security at Port Manatee, said enrollment began in May 2008 for workers to apply for the security cards.

The U.S. Coast Guard estimated 13,000 workers applied for credentials to be used at Manatee, Tampa and St. Petersburg ports.

According to the Transportation Security Administration, 700,000 workers have applied for the cards for the 15 port zones that will begin using the IDs today.

The remainder of the nation's ports will come into compliance on April 14.

The cards will be valid for five years. Then employees will have to apply for renewal.

"We expect it to go smoothly," said Holden of the program. "We don't expect any delays."