Every Friday, we answer a common question about fulfillment, shipping, or business. This week’s question comes from one of the fans who entered our giveaway contest for a Roku. Today we will answer the following question: “why is the USPS shipping by sea now?”
The USPS is shipping by sea now
The United States Postal Service (USPS) is shipping mail and parcels via ocean freight to ten European countries. The affected countries include Austria, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Poland, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
As you may know from past posts on our blog, sea shipping is a lot slower than air shipping. In fact, the USPS doesn’t usually do this because it’s slow and unpredictable. Sea route arrival dates depend on weather and how crowded the ports are. In addition to the amount of time it takes to ship by sea, it will take 7 – 12 additional days to unload items, clear customers, transfer them to a sorting facility, sort, and deliver.
This is…a lot of work. But it’s necessary because the coronavirus has caused widespread flight cancellations and restrictions. With dramatically reduced air freight capacity, the price to ship via air can cost 2-3 times what it normally does. That is if you’re lucky enough to book air freight in the first place!
With this in mind, the USPS has resorted to shipping by sea as a last resort to make sure that mail gets where it needs to go. The USPS has a reputation for delivering in the rain, snow, sleet, hail, and apparently pandemics too. They’re not going to let air freight cancellations stop them either.
What you should do about this
There’s not much you really can do if you run a business that ships internationally. In fact, you have two basic options if you ship to one of the affected countries:
- Accept the delays and explain them to your customers.
- Find alternative shipping methods via FedEx, UPS, or DHL, all of which may cost more and/or be no faster than the USPS.
What’s crucial to understand is that the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the supply chain at multiple levels. It takes a lot of effort to keep shipping even remotely close to “business as usual.” Thankfully, customers have – at least in our anecdotal experience – proven to be very understanding when it comes to delayed shipping.
The entire global supply chain is under unprecedented stress. The USPS is shipping by sea now in order to keep mail moving, even if that means moving at a slower pace. This sort of organizational ingenuity and persistence in the face of a pandemic is exactly what we need right now.
It may not be fast, but sea shipping is a great alternative when air freight is unavailable. Even with emptier skies and streets, human connection can continue by the transport of goods by sea. That’s a comforting thought to us!