Coast Guard Delays TWIC Reader Rule For Another Three Years

For the second time, the U.S. Coast Guard has extended the deadline by which it will announce the latest version of a final rule for the electronic readers of Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) cards as it fine-tunes its risk assessments and how effective the TWIC cards are in addressing risk. The delay, which was announced in the Federal Register, affects the final rule entitled “Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC)—Reader Requirements,” which was originally published in the Federal Register August 23, 2016. The current effective date of implementation was May 8, 2023, having been extended from 2020. The Coast Guard is further extending it to May 8, 2026, and said the delay could possibly be extended even further, to May 8, 2029. 

Not all facilities will be affected by the change. “The Coast Guard proposes delaying the effective date for: facilities that handle certain dangerous cargoes in bulk, but do not transfer those cargoes to or from a vessel; facilities that handle certain dangerous cargoes in bulk, and do transfer those cargoes to or from a vessel; and facilities that receive vessels carrying certain dangerous cargoes in bulk, but do not, during that vessel-to-facility interface, transfer those bulk cargoes to or from those vessels,” according to the announcement. 

In explanation, the Coast Guard said, “This delay will give the Coast Guard time to further analyze the potential effectiveness of the reader requirement in general as well as at these facilities.”

The Coast Guard will consider a study by the Rand Corporation published in March 2022 on the TWIC and risk management. Titled “The Risk-Mitigation Value of the Transportation Worker Identification Credential: A Comprehensive Security Assessment of the TWIC,” the study was undertaken for the Homeland Security Operation Analysis Center at the request of the Coast Guard. “The USCG asked the Homeland Security Operational Analysis Center to re-estimate the population of such regulated facilities that could be subject to the final reader rule delay, develop an objective risk-assessment model for these facilities and conduct a cost–benefit analysis of the regulation.”

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Among the RAND study’s key findings was the conclusion that “Electronic biometric card readers would probably cost industry more than benefit it under the pending rule.” The study said the change would affect between 471 and 711 Maritime Transportation Security Act–regulated facilities that handle [certain dangerous cargoes] in bulk and are therefore likely to be subject to the reader rule delay. The reason for the wide spread in estimated numbers of affected facilities is that some are high-risk while many are low-risk and low-consequence. The study found that people more often gain unauthorized access to facilities by other means than by using invalid TWICs.

The study concluded, “Although the final reader rule is potentially cost-effective even in its current form, reasons exist to consider a more-targeted approach that excludes low-quantity or low–population-density facilities, or both. Under hypothetical regulatory options, a more-targeted approach affecting only higher-consequence facilities would need to avert only one TSI approximately every 200 to 600 years to be cost-effective.”

Among the study’s recommendations were that facilities “take a systems approach to maritime security rather than focusing on one program,” given that “there is no one-size-fits-all solution for improving security at maritime facilities, given their broad differences in risk and operations.” 

The RAND study can be read here. 

Comments and related material must be received by the Coast Guard by January 5, 2023. Comments should be identified by docket number USCG-2022-0052 using the Federal Decision Making Portal at www.regulations.gov.

For information about this document or technical inquiries, call or email Lt. Cmdr. Jeffrey Bender, U.S. Coast Guard; telephone 202-372-1114; email Jeffrey.M.Bender@uscg.mil