The federal government has extended the deadline to apply for a nationwide port security program amid a slower-than-anticipated sign-up process.

Port workers now will have until April 15, 2009 seven months later than the original September deadline to obtain a pass under the Transportation Worker Identification Credential program.

The news, announced by the government Friday, is welcome in San Pedro Bay, where only one in six workers at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports has applied for the card. An estimated 100,000 workers locally will be required to receive a credential.

Local port officials and trucking industry leaders have expressed concern that more than 20 percent of Southern California truck drivers might fail the background checks or decide not to apply for the credential.

Under the program, virtually all port workers nationwide including longshoremen, truck drivers and rail workers must undergo background checks and receive a biometric identification card in order to enter port grounds.

The Department of Homeland Security did not announce the reason for the delay, but officials at the ports speculate it is because of the difficulty in getting workers signed up.

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