As the U.S. cruise industry continues to scramble to meet the various compliance matters placed back on the front burner by the Obama administration, some lawyers are getting a little creative in their efforts to make a buck. All of this came to light last week when an old friend contacted me with what appeared to be a simple question:
"Do cruise ship employees require a TWIC card?" (TWIC is the new biometric ID card designed to provide better port access security.)
The answer would appear obvious: since the entire TWIC purpose is to create secure port access for the commercial maritime sector, it would appear that cruise workers would be a part of those needing registration, along with merchant mariners, port facility employees, long shore workers, truck
drivers, and others requiring unescorted access to secure areas of
maritime facilities and vessels regulated by Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002.
But not so fast: the fact is that the majority of cruise ships that call on U.S. ports -- even those belonging to U.S. cruise lines -- are foreign flagged vessels. The key element to determine TWIC requirements has to do with "secure area access". So, for example, a Filipino waiter employed aboard a non-U.S. flag vessel whose onboard access is limited to crew areas, food prep areas and public areas of the ship would NOT need to apply for TWIC.
Tell that to the cruise line compliance folks, who've been shelling over money to outside HR and legal counsel to delegate TWIC processing and registration. (I haven't been able to verify just how many folks who have registered for TWIC don't need it; ecause of TWIC's delays and the incredibly bad publicity with which the effort launced, the USG is less than eager to discuss "operational anomalies".) Even more egrigious: word has it some maritime attorneys in South Florida have been actually charging carriers legal fees to review the "TWIC status" of individuals who don't even need to apply for TWIC!
Good grief...and we wonder why our profession is the subject of so much contempt.
Bottom line: make sure you know who in your company needs TWIC and who does not, as the money involved is significant. Besides, with increased I-9 audits, SSA ramping up for more "no match" letters, and the E-Verify expansion gaining momentum in Washington, the cruise lines have plenty to worry about in addition to TWIC.
If you are an HR professional with a carrier and need clarification on TWIC, drop me an email.