USPS sea transportation for international shipments
by Serena Khader @

USPS Turns Back to Sea Transportation for International Shipments

With COVID-19 limiting air transport options, USPS turns to sea transport to continue operations

The COVID-19 pandemic has severely affected USPS, particularly in the organization’s international operations. Most notably, USPS has suspended shipments to a number of countries around the world. In addition, the organization has also adjusted its operations to work around current declines in air travel. Due to limited international air travel, USPS is turning to sea transportation to continue services to countries across the world.

USPS Sea Transportation Delays International Deliveries

Since sea transport clearly takes longer than air transport, USPS sea transportation will substantially increase delivery times for affected shipments.

For example, on April 20, 2020, the first batch for sea transport left the JFK International Service Center. The shipments will arrive at the Rotterdam Port in the Netherlands for unloading on May 7th. A second transport with shipments from the Chicago, Miami, and JFK Service Centers departed on April 27, 2020. This batch will arrive at Rotterdam on May 15th, according to USPS.

This is an estimate, as weather and route conditions are likely to affect the arrival of the transport. Once the shipments arrive at Rotterdam Port, those shipments will be unloaded, processed through Customs, sorted, and sent out for road delivery to their destinations. Since this process isn’t streamlined like normal international shipping, USPS estimates that it will take 7-12 days for delivery once the shipments reach Rotterdam.

Which Shipments Will This Affect?

USPS has moved to boat travel for overseas deliveries for the following countries, as of April 29, 2020:

  • Austria
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • Hungary
  • Netherlands
  • Poland
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland

Does This Apply to All USPS Services?

The affected USPS services include:

  • Priority Mail Express International
  • Priority Mail International
  • First Class Mail International
  • First Class Package International Service
  • International Priority Airmail
  • International Surface Air Lift
  • M-bag items

How Long Will This Last?

Since we don’t know how long the Coronavirus pandemic will last, it’s hard to say when air transport will be available again. That said, certain countries are reopening at the time of publishing this article, so it could be sooner than we think.

USPS will continue monitoring the international transport situation, and will continue adjusting operations as the pandemic plays out. Following this, the organization will continue sea transportation for international shipments until COVID-19 no longer affects air transportation. Therefore, if you’re sending packages to international customers in any of the countries listed above, you should expect significant delivery delays for the time being.

USPS will track transport conditions and work to continue operations as widely as possible. In addition, the Postal Service will continue to inform customers of any changes in service changes and delivery estimates. Keep track of Postal Service updates and service changes in the USPS newsroom.

Update: USPS Uses a Third Sea Transport for European Packages

As of May 15th, USPS is making use of a third sea vessel is on its way to Europe. This ship is currently carrying 24,013 receptacles, and departed from the Chicago, JFK, and Miami International Service Centers. The Rotterdam (Netherlands) Port expects to receive the ship on June 9th. Aboard the ship, the 24,000+ parcels are addressed to the following countries:

  • Austria
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • Hungary
  • Netherlands
  • Poland
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland (Geneva and Zurich)

Like the two prior vessels carrying parcels to Europe, USPS also estimates  a 7-12 day window for final delivery once this ship reaches Rotterdam.

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