The U.S. Coast Guard published its Final Rule on electronic reader requirements for the Transportation Worker Identification Credential on August 23, 2016. The Final Rule takes effect on August 23, 2018.

The U.S. Congress mandated improvements in facility and vessel security in the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 (MTSA) and the Security and Accountability For Every Port Act of 2006 (SAFE Port Act). Among the requirements in those Acts, was the mandate for the creation of a national secure credential permitting access to sensitive vessels and port facilities, i.e. the TWIC card, which has been required since 2007 for unescorted access.

Those Acts also mandated that vessels and facilities have the means to confirm a person’s identity by reading a TWIC card with an electronic reader. The Coast Guard first proposed a regulation to implement the reader requirement in 2009 and modified it in 2013. The just announced Final Rule is the culmination of that effort.

Among the most significant adjustments made in the Final Rule is exempting otherwise high-risk vessels (such as vessels carrying defined dangerous cargoes) to greater than 20 TWIC-holding crewmembers. The proposed threshold in 2013 was 14 TWIC-holding crewmembers. The Coast Guard believes that this increase will limit the Rule’s effect to a single vessel. The Coast Guard has reserved the right, however, to adjust that threshold downward if new information warrants the change.

In contrast, many facilities dealing with large passenger vessels and vessels carrying defined dangerous cargoes will have to comply with the electronic reader requirement in two years. The Coast Guard estimates that 525 facilities will be affected although the Final Rule includes certain accommodations for recurring access situations, barge fleeting facilities and ferry terminals.