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Cayman Islands - Mail still not arriving from most countries

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Cayman Islands - Mail still not arriving from most countries

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While mail now is arriving on island regularly from the UK and US and a handful of other countries, via Cayman Airways and British Airways flights, there is still no means to receive letters and parcels from most other jurisdictions.

Melissa Martinez-Ebanks, deputy postmaster general for the Cayman Islands Postal Service, told the Cayman Compass that it would be easier to list countries from which mail was arriving than those from which no post was coming.

Cayman Airways and British Airways are the only two airlines allowed to fly into Cayman regularly.

CAL usually brings in mail once a week on its Miami passenger flight, though this can increase if additional flights are scheduled in a single week. The airline’s cargo flights can also bring in mail.

Regular overseas mail
United States (via Miami)

United Kingdom (via London)

China (via London)

Japan (via London)

New Zealand (via London)

Some European countries (via London)

Mail from US and Canada
The arrival of mail from the US was initially stymied because the only airline with a contract to bring in post was American Airlines, meaning that service stopped when the airline halted its flights into Cayman in March. Although, at the time, Cayman Airways was operating occasional repatriation flights from Miami, the airline did not have a contract to bring in mail.

That contract was signed and finalised in September, enabling Cayman Airways to begin transporting mail from the US to Cayman.

With US mail being routed through major airport hubs – like John F. Kennedy Airport in New York and O’Hare Airport in Chicago – to Miami, the mail flow from the US has effectively been restored. “If it can get to Miami, it can get to Cayman,” Martinez-Ebanks said.

She said American Airlines also retains its contract and that could be restarted when the airline resumes flying into the Cayman Islands.

No mail is currently arriving from Canada, she said, as there are no direct flights to and from there. However, she added, Canada was looking into ways of restoring mail links to the Caribbean.

UK mail
British Airways has been bringing in mail from the UK, along with mail that routes through there from Japan, China, New Zealand and some major European markets, she said.

However, that does not mean that mail comes in on every BA flight, as perishables and certain other materials in the airline’s holds sometimes are given priority over mail.

“There have been instances where British Airways has had to bump off the mail,” Martinez-Ebanks said. “In those instances, they then bring it in when they can.”

Before the BA flights were arriving on a regular basis, the UK’s Royal Mail had been sending letters and parcels on Sealink cargo ships bound for Cayman, but that now has been discontinued, she said.

No mail is coming in by private charter jets as those are not security-cleared, she added.

Regional mail
Mail is also not arriving from Honduras currently, even though Cayman Airways flies to La Ceiba. This is because La Ceiba is not an ‘Office of Exchange’ through which international mail can pass and is required to meet international security standards. The Honduran capital Tegucigalpa is an Office of Exchange, but CAL does not fly to that city and international mail from there cannot be forwarded to La Ceiba.

Mail from Jamaica is also sporadic, Martinez-Ebanks said, as the CAL service to Jamaica is not regular.

No backlog
She said there is no backlog of mail sitting in Cayman waiting to be sent overseas; nor were there heaps of Cayman-bound mail sitting in mailrooms overseas as, in most cases, mail is returned to senders if it cannot reach its destination due to border closures.

While there is little sign of mail arriving from the Middle East, Martinez-Ebanks said she had recently seen a small amount of mail coming in from the United Arab Emirates, which she found heartening. “It suggests things are returning to some level of normalcy,” she said.

No post from African countries is getting through to Cayman at the moment.

Online shopping
The Postal Service has seen an uptick in the arrival of items from overseas that are bought online, leading to delays in people getting their packages.

In a press release issued on 11 Nov., the Postal Service stated that “due to mail transportation limitations as well as sanitisation requirements, mail is arriving in large volumes at the same time and is therefore taking longer than normal to be processed”.

Martinez-Ebanks expanded on the sanitation efforts mentioned in the release, saying there had been comments online from people asking why the Postal Service was using those as an “excuse” for delays.

“The postal staff are wearing PPE [personal protective equipment) in the office when handling mail, but senders and recipients may not necessarily be using it,” she said, adding that it’s hard to break habits of a lifetime, like licking stamps and envelop flaps. “It’s instinctive,” she said.

Because of this, staffers are sanitising letters and parcels, by spraying items with Lysol, for example, as “they still pose a risk”.

She added, “From what we’ve seen, it’s highly unlikely that the virus would survive on mail, but it seems the virus survives longest on surfaces like paper and cardboard,” so extra care is being taken to ensure hygiene standards are met.

Sanitising of mail is usually done overnight, she said, so as not to further delay delivery. Once the sanitisation is done, even if it is at 2am, the processing of items would then begin by 2:30am or 3am, she said.

The Postal Service is asking customers to check the tracking on their items either on the website of the vendor or on the Cayman Islands Postal Service website at http://globaltracktrace.ptc.post/gtt.web/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; for updates on their items’ status. Goods will not become available for collection until either an ‘Item held at delivery depot’ or ‘Item arrival at collection point for pick-up’ tracking event is shown, the release noted.

The Postal Service pointed out that the tracking information online is the same information that is available to postal staff.

“Also, using the online information source will prevent the inconvenience of visiting the Airport Post Office to get the tracking information or before the item can be released,” the release stated.

It noted that delays in processing packages with merchandise can also be prevented by ensuring that an invoice has been emailed to parcelpost@gov.ky.

“Proper addressing, including a PO Box number, also helps avoid delays since customer notification slips are sent to their individual PO Box addresses,” the Postal Service said.

Christmas mail

Traditionally, one of the busiest times of year for postal services worldwide is Christmas, but with disruptions in global mail delivery, this year will probably be a different story.

Martinez-Ebanks advised anyone in Cayman who is planning to send presents or cards to the US or UK, to post them early.

“The network is hampered by the lack of regular flights,” she said, adding, “if we see an increase in COVID cases in many destinations, those destinations will be going back into lockdown and that will reduce the amount of staff available at post offices to process the mail. So, definitely post as early as possible.”

She suggested that anyone considering sending Christmas mail to other destinations should check with the relevant country’s postal service websites, or check with the Cayman Islands Postal Service’s customer service department on cipscustomercare@gov.ky.
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