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More balanced approach needed to ensure global postal security

It is important to ensure that security measures do not hamper the movement of mail or undermine the growth of the postal sector, says the head of the United Nations Universal Postal Union (UPU) after a group of experts met to discuss safety standards in the industry.

The meeting of the UPU committee comprising postal operators and international organizations was prompted by the introduction last November of new security measures by the United States Transportation Security Agency (TSA) for US-bound international mail after two bomb packages from Yemen were intercepted in October.

The measures forced the national postal services of UPU member countries to change their operational procedures overnight, according to a news release issued by the agency after last week’s meeting.

Some postal services stopped accepting or delayed US-bound mail items and faced higher transportation costs and the shutdown of major mail transit hubs, causing mail backlogs around the world.

Edouard Dayan, the Director General of the UPU, said he fully understands the need for heightened security, but noted that permanent security measures could cause problems if they compromise the principles of freedom of transit and a universal postal service.

“Security concerns should not restrict Posts’ ability to move the mail and the sector’s future growth,” stated Mr. Dayan, who recently met with the head of the TSA to discuss the issue. “A better understanding of the postal business and a balanced approach to security are required.”

The UPU has worked with the TSA to relax the measures for low-risk mail. While some countries resumed full service at the end of March and early April, others are still experiencing mail blockages or delays.

Fuelled by e-commerce and trade expansion, postal services saw their express and parcel volumes rise by more than 15 per cent in 2010 compared to 2009, according to research carried out by UPU. In addition, postal services worldwide send more than 418 million letters, packages and express mail pieces to the US every year.

“It is essential to work together at the international level to define global standards in this area that apply to all actors rather than having individual countries or supranational bodies setting standards for everyone,” said Mr. Dayan.

The recommendations from last week’s meeting of the UPU inter-committee security group, which took place at the agency’s headquarters in Berne, Switzerland, are expected by the end of the year.

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