Security Program to Cost Ports

Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Port operators and freight companies will have to pay up for tightened security checks that will extend full background checks to all workers entering U.S. maritime facilities and vessels by the end of the year, industry sources said on Tuesday. Industry sources say they are concerned over the high enrollment and electronic hardware costs associated with the roll-out of high-security biometric identification cards in the next phase of the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) program.

The Department of Homeland Security will begin to require security screening of all workers with unescorted access to ports at the end of the year, raising the number subject to checks to 850,000 from about 400,000 workers, who were required to be screened in April in the TWIC's first phase. Since the September 11 attacks on the United States, governments and security experts have repeatedly voiced fears about the vulnerability of the maritime industry, which carriers more than 90 percent of the world's traded goods. Industry sources have in turn raised concerns over the high enrollment fee of $95-$149 per port worker under the program -- the basic application processing fee at $45-$65, credential and threat assessment fee was $50-$62, and the FBI fee $22.

Some sources expected the freight companies to foot the bill for the enrollment fees even though the enrollment proposal in the TWIC program stated that the applicant would be responsible for the fee. Besides the enrollment fee, ports face the cost of the card readers cards, which some industry sources said could cost $11,000 each. The actual cost to be paid by a port operator will depend on the number of readers needed and the installation of cables. Shannon estimated the U.S. ports would need between 50 to 250 readers per port, depending on the size of the port.

Implementing the cards and readers is a cost-effective trade-off to gain increased awareness of who is accessing the ports, he said. One industry source also said the cost of the readers was expected to partially funded by a Federal grant. Source: Reuters

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