USPS uses sea routes for mail

Thanks to a collapse in air freight capacity and a hike in air freight rates, the US Postal Service (USPS) has started shipping mail from the US to Europe by sea.

The first such shipment left JFK International Service Centre in New York on April 20, bound for Rotterdam. It consisted of five containers of mail totalling close to 33 tonnes. They are destined for Austria, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Poland, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

According to a USPS advisory, “Sea route arrival dates are not exact and may vary depending on weather related events and queuing at port of arrival”. The postal service estimates that mail sent this way will take an additional 7-12 days.

Other mail has gone from the US across the Pacific from San Francisco to Shanghai. “In a non-COVID 19 world, we use ocean routes to return empty bags and some return to sender mail. But no US outbound mail,” according to a USPS spokesperson.

Some observers have pointed out that with air freight capacity collapsing and rates almost tripling the move to seaborne mail routes may have been driven by simple economics. The postal service spokesperson was not to be drawn on this.