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BeTWIC and Between

As a concerned citizen I am ever vigilant to help reduce the National Deficit. I hate to agree with my Republicans friends. But, we do have too much government regulation. The Transportation Worker Identification Credential, TWIC, is as good example. According the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) own estimate, the program will cost $3.2 billion over 10 years. Ever since the TWIC was mandated by Congress nine years ago, there has been plenty of confusion. OMG if my memory serves me, we had a Republican administration nine years ago. I thought they were against regulations.


I have talked with all my Captain friends, and there is no consensus as to who needs a TWIC. A few years ago when a friend was applying for his USCG license, he insisted he needed the TWIC. I called the Coast Guard and was told I didn’t need one. As recent as Christmas weekend I was talking to Capt. Ray at the Naples City Docks. Capt. Ray runs fishing charters on his 22' center console. He produced his TWIC. His understanding was that every Captain and mate needs the TWIC, even though he will never go near a secured area.


Even though TWIC and the USCG license come under DHS, there doesn’t seem to any coordination between agencies; hence additional fees, fingerprinting and duplication of background checks. The only good to come out of this is the Captain’s licenses will now be a passport style booklet which is easier to carry aboard your boat than an 8.5 x 11 certificate in a zip lock bag. And after being fingerprinted several times and vetted for any terrorist affiliations it was only recently that TSA, another agency of DHS, accepted your TWIC as proper identification for flying.


I visited the USCG website to determine whether I needed a TWIC to renew my Captain’s license or whether I was already in violation. I became more confused. I called TWIC for clarification. After pushing many numbers on my phone, including “1” for English, which really annoys me, I reached a live agent. But, she had no information on the TWIC requirements other than where to mail my check.


I did come across Policy Letter 11-15 on the USCG website which alluded to an exemption. I then called the Coast Guard, 1-888-IASKNMC, for clarification. The agent could give me no information other than referring me to the Policy Letter. This does not surprise me. I have called numerous government agencies for clarification of laws, regulations or policies they have created. They all suggested hiring an attorney to explain it to me. What ever happened to “straight from the horse’s mouth?” I called back and reached an agent who was familiar with an exemption to carrying the TWIC. It still took us several minutes to find the link for the exemption letter. I don’t know how I missed it. It is clearly labeled “TWIC Sample B Form.”


In my opinion, as a former president of a cemetery association and factory trained Evinrude mechanic, you can be exempt from carrying a TWIC if you serve on an uninspected vessel under 100 GRT which does not have a vessel security plan (VSP). Which boat needs a VSP is a gray area. I had a VSP on my Sea Ray: If anyone spots a periscope and then sees a “fish” coming toward us, yell “abandon ship” and jump overboard.


The TWIC continues to be of limited value. Without biometric readers, the cards are subject to fraud. This fact alone points out the absurdity of requiring a charter Captain of a 22 fishing boat to carry a TWIC. I haven’t read anything suggesting the Fish and Wildlife officers or the Hallandale Marine Police are planning on carrying a waterproof version of the reader on their boats.


My license expires in 2013. Up until this TWIC nonsense, the hardest part of renewing my license was trying to find parking in downtown Miami and taking the drug test. I always have a problem producing a specimen when someone is watching me through a two way mirror. As little as I use my license the main benefit is to be able to put “Capt.” in the prefix when I write my representative. Debbie Wasserman Schultz will not accept an email without a prefix.



By Bob E. Sherman
Syndicated Writer