‘Christmas will be a very busy shipping season’

Posted on Oct 21 2021

If you want your Christmas card or gifts to reach your loved ones in time for Christmas this year, better send it now—the earlier the better.

The U.S. Postal Service Saipan encourages everyone to mail out their Christmas mail or parcel in advance as it is expecting an rush of activities this yuletide season, and they predict the amount of Christmas-bound parcels this year to exceed last year’s. The same advice holds true for online shoppers—order them in advance so they are not caught in the flurry of mail that will descend on the USPS this Christmas.

“It is going to be a very heavy shipping season so anything that the public may want for Christmas or holidays, for birthdays, and other celebrations, try to order in advance as much as possible,” said Postmaster Harry Wilcox.

Currently, priority mail takes around 15 days and the standard mail has always taken around two months.

“If you’re going to have somebody send you something from the mainland and it’s standard mail, parcel select, or retail ground, any of those come by ships. In the U.S. mainland, this means trucks and trains and here in the CNMI, it means boat. So, if you see an item go through Richmond, California or San Francisco, California, that usually means that’s where it was staged into the containers and that’s going to be a two-month journey,” Wilcox added.

He said it would be prudent for people to purchase items from the U.S. mainland or send mail or packages at least a month prior to Christmas. “Depending on the retailer that you order from, like if they use UPS or FedEx primarily, those companies do not have a big presence with us out here. When items come via those shippers, they are going to give it to us to deliver the last mile and, when they do that, they choose the lowest service available to them which is ‘parcel select’ or ‘parcel post,’ which is a surface selection (also known as sea mail—mail or package transported by land and sea) so it is going to be slow.”

“…and we don’t have any control over that because it’s not the Post Office that chooses how that item is sent, but the level of service that you pay for with the Postal Service. The advantage in the [U.S.] mainland is that if they have a backlog, they can hire more freighters to handle the volume. All our mail comes out here via commercial airline, so when the volume increases, these cubes [of mail and parcel] get less and less on United Airline planes because they are handling several things, including passengers and so forth, and it becomes a clogged artery type issue. …If those lines are full, mail is going to be sluggish,” he added.

According to Wilcox, the CNMI get mail via plane and container on one of the ships every couple of weeks. “Sometimes once a week, depending on the number of what the volume dictates but we get a container from Guam for retail ground or standard mail. …For mail going out, they go via air. So when you mail, it goes to Guam, then gets to Honolulu to get distributed to the U.S. mainland. If you are sending out internationally, it doesn’t get distributed internationally until it hits Honolulu or Los Angeles International Service Center. Then it gets sent to, say the Philippines, South Korea, or wherever you are mailing.”

Wilcox assured that even with the predicted influx of activity at the Postal Service, they always try to be accommodating during the rush to continuously provide needed service. That means they either open earlier or close later. They also hire more help to try to deal with the workflow.

Bea Cabrera | Correspondent
Bea Cabrera, who holds a law degree, also has a bachelor's degree in mass communications. She has been exposed to multiple aspects of mass media, doing sales, marketing, copywriting, and photography.
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