ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands – Port and longshore workers, truckers and others on the Island of St. Thomas today will begin to enroll in the Department of Homeland Security's Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) program. The program's goal is to ensure that any individual who has unescorted access to secure areas of port facilities and vessels has received a thorough background check and is not a security threat.
"The start of enrollment here is one more step in our effort to prevent persons who are a threat from gaining access to secure areas of port facilities," said Maurine Fanguy, TWIC program director for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). "We appreciate the support of our partners on the Island of St. Thomas for helping to make one of the world's most advanced interoperable biometric systems a reality."
St. Thomas joins St. Croix and more than 120 sites in the mainland United States which have already rolled out TWIC. Workers in St. John may use the enrollment center in St. Thomas. Ultimately, the program will be rolled out to 147 enrollment centers and will vet more than 1.2 million maritime transportation system workers through April 2009.
"The Transportation Worker Identification Credential will assist in improving Port Security through a common access control protocol that will ensure proper access to secure and restricted areas on waterfront facilities and vessels that are critical to the U.S. Virgin Islands," said U.S. Coast Guard Cmdr. Carlos Torres, Sector San Juan chief of preventions.
The islands of St. Thomas and St. John are among the most popular tourist destinations in the Caribbean. More than 2 million cruise ship passengers visit "America's Caribbean" each year, making St. Thomas/St. John one of the world's busiest cruise ports. St. Thomas is also one of the Caribbean's largest centers of trade and commercial activity. The islands' busy port facilities handle almost 800,000 tons of cargo shipping each year.
Workers in the U.S. Virgin Islands are able to pre-enroll for TWIC online at the Coast Guard's Homeport site, http://homeport.uscg.mil. Pre-enrolling speeds up the process by allowing workers to provide biographic information and schedule a time to complete the application process in person. This eliminates waiting at enrollment centers and reduces the time it takes to enroll.
The TWIC Enrollment Center for St. Thomas and St. John is located at 8000 Nisky Center, Suite 202a, St. Thomas, VI 00802. The hours of operation are Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.