No one could have foreseen the exceptional global situation created by the COVID-19 pandemic said the Universal Postal Union’s Director General Bishar A. Hussein at the plenary session of the organization’s Postal Operations Council.“[The UPU’s] biggest goal in these challenging times has been to keep the mail moving. The COVID-19 crisis has placed unprecedented pressure on the international postal network,” Mr Hussein told the representatives of member countries who sit on the POC.
The postal network relies heavily on passenger airlines to transport mail. International mail flows were severely affected at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic due to the cancellation of international flights and the closure of airports.
Based on figures from the International Civil Aviation Organization by April 2020, the overall number of passengers fell 92 per cent compared to 2019 levels.
In 2020, overall international traffic fell by 74 per cent, a colossal total of some 1.4 billion passengers.
Responding to the immense disruption, the Universal Postal Union contacted postal operators and invited them to reach out to their surface cargo providers, and to focus on new transport methods, including rail, sea and road.
“The UPU has encouraged postal operators and carriers to work together and to uphold the keystone universal service obligation, which seeks to provide post to everyone on this planet,” declared Mr. Hussein.
To assist postal operators, Mr. Hussein said the UPU had delivered an impressive number of innovations and new methods of transport over land, sea and air. The UPU, working closely with the International Air Transport Association, also invited governments to fast-track procedures and relax restrictions to keep air-cargo supply lines open.
Other Innovations included new mail transport routes, and the UPU had worked closely with postal operators and railway organizations to turn the original pilot studies into a viable reality. So far, more than 20 mail-only block trains transported in excess of 8,000 tons of mail. The use of trains to deliver mail is a major success for the UPU.
“Surface transportation by road and sea are other effective means we have established to supplement air transport, and they are now becoming more and more important elements of the international postal network,” Mr. Hussein added.
Held as a virtual meeting this year, the POC is the technical and operational side of the UPU, and consists of 40 member countries, elected during the quadrennial Universal Postal Congress. The body elects its own chair and meets annually at the UPU’s headquarters in Berne. The Plenary Session was held on the last day of the POC, which started on 19 April.