A Port in the Storm

Maritime facilities leverage advanced technology for TWIC compliance

While federal security requirements like the Transportation Workers Identification Credential program are designed with the safety of the nation in mind, adhering to them can be a costly and time-consuming task.

The goal of the TWIC program is to ensure that anyone who has unescorted access to secure areas of U.S. port facilities and vessels has received a thorough background check and is not a known security threat. The Transportation Security Administration recently announced that it has reached a major milestone: 1 million port and longshore workers, truckers and others at ports across the nation have enrolled in the TWIC program.

But in response to the stringent TWIC requirements, a new trend is emerging. The U.S. maritime industry includes more than 180 ports—some of which are looking for ways to use advanced technology to gain leeway under the program and save on both financial and time investments.

A Step Ahead

TWIC is a common identification credential for all personnel that require unescorted access to secure maritime facilities and vessels. The program is part of the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002, which aims to protect U.S. ports and waterways from the possibility of terrorist attack. The card is tamper resistant and contains each worker's biometric fingerprint to create a positive link between the cardholder and the card.

The Virginia Port Authority and the Port of Wilmington have received approval from the Coast Guard to leverage security technology to achieve TWIC compliance. At each port, these developments will allow officials to grant access to visitors who don't have a TWIC card but are trusted agents within the industry—for example, an overland truck driver entering the port to further transship goods.

At these ports, the fl ow of workers and traffic waxes and wanes seasonally. Often, someone seeking access to the port won't have TWIC identification and will therefore require an escort. On busy days, this could mean escorting hundreds of trucks and visitors.

In Virginia, the Port Authority has started a new program, called Trusted Agent, using Orsus' situational management software platform, Situator, to monitor visitors who don't have a TWIC card. Trusted visitors can now access secure areas of the port—unescorted—by carrying a Nextel Sprint phone equipped with a radio and navigational system from Xora Co. When paired up with Situator, the system gives command center operators the ability to track and monitor each visitor's whereabouts while on port property. If he or she enters a restricted area or if the device doesn't move for a predefined period of time, operators can directly contact the visitor on the phone or dispatch a security official to the location.

Meanwhile, at the Port of Wilmington in Delaware, officials have started using Siemens Siveillance SiteIQ video surveillance system to keep an eye on truckers and port visitors who don't have a TWIC card. With SiteIQ, vehicles are greeted at the gatehouse, where drivers are identifi ed and then allowed to pass. Each visitor is digitally monitored at the point of entry and tracked with analytics as he or she moves throughout the facility. As at the Virginia Port Authority, any unauthorized movement into restricted areas is instantly fl agged and dealt with accordingly.

For the ports' operators, this new development brought a sigh of relief.

"The Coast Guard advised us that if we were able to ensure 24/7 monitoring of certain secure areas that we use for vehicle staging and other operational reasons, we would not have to provide physical escorts for vehicles and their drivers," said Patrick J. Hemphill, manager of port security at the Port of Wilmington. "This will help us reduce our costs involved with TWIC compliance and implementation."

Cost, Time Savings

Solutions like Orsus' Situator and Siemens SiteIQ allow ports to boost operational effi ciency and trim compliance costs—but without compromising security.

The drawn-out enrollment process is one obvious reason why the use of customized technology solutions for trusted port visitors simply makes sense. From the looks of TSA's Web site, getting a TWIC card is a time-consuming process. The worker must pre-enroll by providing biographic information and then schedule an appointment at an enrollment center. At the enrollment center, he or she must provide acceptable identity documents, fill out a range of forms, get fingerprinted, sit for a digital photograph and pay a $132.50 fee. Once the TWIC card is ready—which usually take three to four weeks—the worker has to return to that specific enrollment center to pick up the credential.

And at $132.50, the card can be expensive for one-time visitors. On the other hand, when a worker who is enrolled in the TWIC program forgets his or her card, an escort is required, which requires even more time and financial investment from the Port Authority—all for a single visitor.

In a time where the concept of cost savings is a must to any organization, tapping a port's existing security infrastructure to ensure TWIC compliance only makes sense. This new trend only goes to prove that at places like the Port of Wilmington and the Virginia Port Authority, necessity really is the mother of invention.

This article originally appeared in the June 2009 issue of Security Today.

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