THE long-awaited Transportation Worker Identity Credential, a biometric identification card for US transport workers across a number of modes, finally moved into the testing stage this week in an initial project at Long Beach Container Terminal.
Announcing the move, the Transportation Security Administration, the arm of the Department of Homeland Security with overall responsibility for US transport security, said the testing of the prototype identity card's technology and business processes would be extended to 34 sites in six states and would last for seven months.
The testing period would draw in 200,000 participants, largely at shipping companies and terminals in southern California, Florida and several northeastern states. The shipping companies involved include APL and Maersk, Hanjin and Crowley, while among the ports are Los Angeles and Long Beach, Miami and Jacksonville.
The new ID card cannot be introduced soon enough for the maritime industry, which regards it as an essential building block in protecting the system of waterborne trade from terrorist attack and has grown somewhat frustrated at the slow pace of its development and introduction.
Indeed, implementation of the new system is one of three primary goals for the newly established Coalition for Secure Ports, an organisation of terminal operators, carriers and shipper interests committed to improving port and cargo chain security.
Implementation of the new system is still some way off, but at least this week's news represents movement in the right direction.
The TSA described the new card as 'a tamper-resistant credential that contains biometric information about the holder that renders the card useless to anyone other than the rightful owner'.
'Using this biometric data,' it added, 'each transport facility can verify the identity of a worker and prevent unauthorised individuals from accessing secure areas.'
The agency also noted: 'Currently, many transport workers must carry a different identification card for each facility they access.
'A standard TWIC would improve the flow of commerce by eliminating the need for redundant credentials and streamlining the identity verification process.'
The TSA is now collaborating with the Coast Guard to push through implementation of the TWIC for maritime workers and said it would work with other agencies to add employees in other modes to the system.
Once the latest testing programme is completed, it added, it would begin an analysis of how to implement the new card.
Asa Hutchison, under-secretary for Border and Transportation Security, added; 'TWIC is a significant enhancement that will prevent terrorists and other unauthorised persons from gaining access to sensitive areas of the nation's transport system.'