Yesterday, U.S. Senator Susan Collins, Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, questioned Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff about the ongoing problems with the availability of and quickness in acquiring the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) for newly graduated merchant mariners.

Senator Collins asked, “As I’m sure you’re aware, my home State of Maine and several other states operate Maritime Academies that each year graduate thousands of men and women ready to work in the U.S. maritime industry including on U.S. vessels. With the September 2008 TWIC deadline for merchant mariners fast approaching, I am concerned that most of these students will graduate just before the deadline and that local TWIC enrollment capacity may be inadequate to ensure they obtain their TWIC cards. In Castine, Maine for example, where Maine Maritime Academy is located and expects a graduating class of approximately 800, school officials have been told that a mobile enrollment center will be available but that it can only handle 25 enrollments per day. How will the Transportation Security Administration accommodate the spike of newly graduated maritime workers that will occur just before the September TWIC deadline?”

Secretary Chertoff replied that he would investigate opening the enrollment centers earlier and giving current students the opportunity to apply for the card before graduation.

“This is a critical issue that could effect thousands of merchant mariners and other workers,” noted Senator Collins. “I am deeply concerned that the TWIC cards will not be in the hands of those who need them by the September 2008 deadline. I will continue to work with DHS officials to ensure that transportation workers are able to get the TWIC cards with minimal delay.”