Postal Updates

U.S. Postal Service sending mail to Europe on ships

Apr 24, 2020, 12 PM

By Bill McAllister, Washington Correspondent

The United States Postal Service has gone back to using ships to get mail to Europe.

The agency disclosed in an advisory April 23 that three days earlier it had turned to a ship to transport mail that would normally be flown across the Atlantic by aircraft.

The ship, which departed from the USPS JFK International Service Center in New York, was expected to arrive in Rotterdam in the Netherlands on May 7.

After offloading and processing, that’s a 21-day journey for mail that typically would make the trans-Atlantic trip overnight.

The ship is carrying mail for 10 European nations in five containers that weigh more than 72,000 pounds (32,768 kilograms). The 10 nations are Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

The announcement said the USPS has returned to using ships because “of limited air transportation resulting from widespread flight cancellations and restrictions” caused by the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.

“This option will remain in effect until sufficient air transportation capacity becomes available,” the announcement said.

The Postal Service made a decision years ago to abandon sea transportation of mail, opting to have first-class mail sent overseas on commercial airliners.

In 2007 the USPS abandoned sending letters to Europe by ship saying the process had become too costly.

The coronavirus crisis has caused a severe drop in the number of trans-Atlantic flights, creating a problem for the Postal Service and a backlog of letters and packages destined for Europe. Priority Mail, first-class mail and international surface Air Lift and M-bag mail is affected.

The Postal Service cautioned mailers that it could take another four days after the ship arrives in Rotterdam for the mail to be delivered in Europe.

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