New ID Card Needed for Port Workers

It's been nearly seven years since the terrorist attacks on 911. And there have been no reported incidents of terrorism on American soil since. Still the government continues to tighten up areas it feels could be targets, including the Port of Houston. Bill Stamps has more.

The Port of Houston is the tenth busiest port in the world. And starting next April, anyone who uses it will have to have a new ID card. Its part of a nationwide effort by the Department of Homeland Security to strengthen security at America's ports. Congressman Gene Green says the effort started seven years ago.

"After 911 literally working with the federal agencies, the FBI was on every site of the Houston Ship Channel working with the Coast Guard all our federal agencies were there giving suggestions on how they could harden both the water side and the land side, and this TWIC card is another step in that direction."

TWIC stands for transportation worker identification. Thousands have already signed up. But so  many people still need them, they had to open a second office to handle them. James Marchand is with the Transportation Security Administration.

"We have another two thousand people that need to come in and get their card, so now is the time to sign up. You can sign up online, get an appointment, or you can walk in the door.  So we're looking for all you folks who work in the maritime to come in and get your card."

If you've been on a plane lately you already know what security changes have been made at our nation's airports. But the government has been criticized for years for not tightening security at the ports.  Congresswoman Shelia Jackson Lee says the new ID card is a step towards doing just that.

"Well it is some seven years after 911 and the United States has in essence dodged a bullet. We have made ourselves better. We have instituted the Department of Homeland Security. We have the Transportations Security Administration, which in essence protects us in our airports and aviation industry.   And so we've made changes. But still we know that everyday there are terrorist cells in the United States. We know that there are no boundaries even though they are a sovereign nation. We know people move."

The card costs 132 dollars. Anyone without one next April won't be able to access the port without an escort.

Bill Stamps...KUHF Houston Public Radio News.