The International Civil Aviation Organization and the Universal Postal Union on Tuesday encouraged national governments to provide postal, air cargo and express mail operators with the resources and regulatory flexibility necessary to maintain efficient delivery service during the coronavirus crisis.
A joint statement by the UN agencies aligns with recommendations this summer from ICAO's Aviation Recovery Task Force for nations to provide flexibility to operators hauling airmail and air cargo, including emergency food and medical necessities.
"As a critical infrastructure in the provision of essential services, Posts require support to maintain their operations in the face of the major challenges posed by the pandemic. Posts are actively engaged in the transport by air of vital medical and humanitarian supplies, consumer goods, and e-commerce and essential items needed to fight the current pandemic, including information materials for public dissemination and COVID-19 samples and test kits to support comprehensive research into understanding this disease," the statement said. "The fulfilment of the international postal service mission, as well as that of air cargo carriers and express mail operators, is highly dependent on the support of member countries in recognizing the essential nature of these services, ensuring operators' financial stability and providing their workers with the flexibility required to undertake their duties."
Postal logistics is also important for economic recovery, officials said.
Express operators that transport parcels for postal services include FedEx Corproation (NYSE:FDX) and DHL.
The House of Representatives recently approved $25 billion to help the U.S. Postal Service deal with higher operating costs associated with the coronavirus outbreak, and ensure timely delivery of mail-in ballots. The bill is unlikely to be taken up by the Republican-controlled Senate.
"ICAO and the UPU encourage member countries to work in tandem with their designated postal operators and air transport operators to strengthen collaboration between global supply chain stakeholders. Moreover, these agencies call on such stakeholders to work with them in improving supply chain resiliency and dependability through active participation in digitalization efforts, specifically through the development of standards and updated guidance materials," they said.
ICAO has acted as an information clearinghouse and facilitator of international collaboration on air transport during the pandemic. The agencies said applying artificial intelligence to postal supply chains could unlock great value overcoming e-commerce constraints.
Analyses of ICAO and UPU data sets already have helped identify trends and forecast the growth of different categories of e-commerce items carried by postal authorities using air transport, they said. The forecasts help countries' match e-commerce capacity and infrastructure plans with expected growth, "thus ensuring that member countries derive maximum benefit from the additional value of e-commerce trade within their national economies, despite the pandemic."