- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 2, 2008

BALTIMORE (AP) | The Maryland Port Administration began requiring workers and visitors Monday to show new, federally mandated identification cards at port terminals.

The change was made about a month before the government’s deadline on the cards. So visitors still without the new Transportation Worker Identification Credential can present a receipt proving they have applied for one, said James J. White, the agency’s executive director.

Mr. White said the agency started required the cards before the U.S. Coast Guard’s Dec. 30 deadline to ease into the transition.

“We felt that we needed a cushion,” he said. However “we didn’t want to see people that make their living at the port be denied access.”

By April, all public and private marine terminals will require visitors to present the card to gain unescorted access to a facility.

The preparation to issue the cards, mandated under a 2002 law, has had several setbacks. A power surge recently damaged the Maryland-based system for activating them nationwide, requiring weeks of repairs, Transportation Safety Administration spokesman Greg Soule said.

The cards, which cost up to $132.50, contain a gold chip coded to match their users’ fingerprints. The electronic readers for them have not been fully developed or installed at ports.

Some ports were set to activate the cards Oct. 31, but postponed the start, said Lt. Anthony J. Quirino, the Coast Guard’s chief of port safety and security in Baltimore. However, he thinks the system will be fully operational after Dec. 30.

The Coast Guard originally thought 25,000 people would register for the program. But estimating the number has been difficult because not everybody who will get a card works at the port. For example, truck drivers arrive only occasionally.

There likely will be some applicants who will not get the card before Dec. 30, but those will be the exception, Lt. Quirino said.

As of Nov. 21, about 13,000 people had enrolled in the program at the Dundalk enrollment office, in Baltimore County.

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