Cooperation with UPU
In the framework of cooperation between the Organisation for Cooperation between Railways and the Universal Postal Union, and under the “Agreement on Cooperation between the Universal Postal Union and the Organisation for Cooperation between Railways on the Development and Facilitation of Carriage of International Mail by Rail” dated 1 October 2019, at the initiative of the OSJD Committee, a Consultative Meeting was held on 6 May 2020 of representatives of the OSJD and Universal Postal Union, with representatives of the World Customs Organisation attending as guests. The meeting addressed the issue of organising the carriage of postal items by rail under the conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic (hereinafter, the Meeting). In his welcome speech to the participants in the Meeting, the OSJD Committee’s Executive Secretary Mr. Attila Kiss noted the importance and urgency of addressing the organisation of postal item carriage by rail in a challenging situation caused by the pandemic of the coronavirus infection.
The participants discussed the following items:
- draft Terms of Reference for the UPU Con- tact Committee for Rail Transport;
- customs regime under the Customs Code of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) pertaining to the transit of postal items by rail transport, and recommendations from the WCO;
- cooperation with a number of postal/rail- way operators on new postal rail transport routes, and challenges and problems in carrying postal items from China to Europe by block
The participants representing the UPU and OSJD highlighted the need for continued participation of both Organisations’s representatives in the meeting of the UPU Contact Committee that would work on schedule until the Terms of Reference have been adopted by the Universal Postal Union.
Representatives of the UPU and OSJD noted that the carriage of postal items by rail from China to Europe involves transit through the territories of EAEU countries.
The Chairperson of the OSJD Commission on Freight Traffic raised the question of measures taken by WCO, given the conditions of the coronavirus pandemic and a great demand for the transportation of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies, to facilitate carriage of such items by various modes of transport, including rail transport.
The WCO representatives pointed out that they were prepared to offer support by providing up-to-date information on issues of interest to the OSJD and UPU, in particular on the specifics of customs transit applied to international postal items carried by rail transport.
The WCO representatives provided updates on the following WCO activities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic:
- facilitation of relief goods transportation based on proper methods of risk assessment;
- stepping up communication, responsiveness, and cooperation with its partners, governmental authorities, and the private sector;
- taking steps to protect the personnel of customs
The head of the WCO International Bureau’s Transport Program pointed out that the world was living through difficult times. The governments of WCO member countries were taking unprecedented measures. In view of massive disruptions in the operation of the global postal network, and indeed the entire global supply chain, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the WCO International Bureau was monitoring the situation and looking for alternatives and plausible solutions in relation to the restriction or cancellation of passenger services by airlines all over the world that had led to a massive collapse of the global postal transport network. The transport situation of designated postal operators that used only passenger flights for carrying postal items was deteriorating by the hour due to multiple restrictions on travel between all regions. The WCO was looking into every opportunity to help postal operators to move postal items that were stuck at exchange points in many countries.
The Chairman of the OSJD Commission on Freight Traffic noted that the current period was difficult indeed for all the people whose work was related to the operation of global postal services. On its part, the OSJD was prepared for a joint discussion of any possible solution that could get postal items going on some routes that rely on rail transport.
The representatives of the WCO informed the meeting about an ongoing project that involved transportation of postal items between China and European countries by rail.
Over the last three years, there have been a number of pilot projects of carrying postal items by rail, but their scopes were quite insignificant, a few bags or a single container at most. However, the spread of the corona- virus infection caused the accumulation of a huge amount of outgoing postal items in China, with the corresponding rise in the volume of freight. In this situation, China Post switched over to postal block trains The first postal block train “Express KZD China Post” carrying postal items and two containers of pharmaceuticals departed China and arrived in Vilnius, Lithuania, 14 days after the departure.