Mariners face uncertainty in TWIC renewal requirements

As the first Transportation Worker Identification Credentials (TWIC) approach their expiration dates, some mariners are reporting confusion in the renewal process.

TWIC cards are issued by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). In addition to a TWIC, working mariners are likely to have some combination of the Merchant Mariner License (MML), Merchant Mariner’s Document (MMD) or Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC). But they are not created equal.

All three documents are acceptable forms of identification to obtain or renew the TWIC, according to Lorie Dankers, a TSA spokeswoman. “The MML and MMD will continue to be acceptable until they are fully phased out, which is set to occur in spring 2014,” Dankers said.

But the MMD, a driver’s license-sized card required by mariners on U.S. ships of 100 tons or more, supposedly carries more weight, according to the TSA.

According to the TSA’s requirements, identification documents come in two categories for U.S. citizens born in the United States or its outlying possessions.

The first category is List A, which requires only one document for identification. An unexpired MMD falls into this category, even though it’s being phased out.

The second category, List B, requires two documents from the list for identification. Both an unexpired MML bearing an official raised seal, or a certified copy of the MML and an unexpired MMC fall into this category. Also, the TWIC itself is found on List B, requiring an additional approved document as well.

When John Bennett, president of Maritime Protective Services, a Florida-based compliance consulting and training firm, got his TWIC in 2009, he took a U.S. passport, which is on List A, making it sufficient identification by itself. But at the enrolling office he also had to show his driver’s license.

“There’s a difference between what’s on the list and what actually happens when you go in the office,” Bennett said.

To help TWIC holders extend the life of their documents, TSA has launched a three-year replacement Extended Expiration Date (EED) TWIC at a reduced cost of $60, compared to the standard fee of $129.75.

Beginning in late August, U.S. citizens or U.S. nationals who hold TWICs that will expire on or before Dec. 31, 2014, can apply for the extension.

TWIC holders who are not U.S. citizens or U.S. nationals or who are eligible but do not wish to use the three-year renewal option can apply for the standard five-year renewal.

The three-year option is a one-time opportunity, Dankers noted.

“Upon the expiration of this three-year EED TWIC, all TWIC holders will be required to enroll for a standard five-year TWIC,” she said.

The extension program is designed to allow TWIC holders to renew their cards at a lower cost while TSA deploys the much-delayed biometric readers that are at the heart of the TWIC program.

Without the biometric identification, the TWIC security measures won’t have much teeth.

“If we don’t have the readers, it’s just a glorious piece of laminated plastic that has a picture of you on it,” Bennett said.

By Professional Mariner Staff