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Postal and courier services to St Helena – is it really that difficult

Recent discussions about the difficulty of receiving regular mail on St Helena in a reasonable time frame has left many recipients disappointed,  Air freight customers have also reported long delays even when using dedicated freight forwarding services to St Helena that attract a premium rate has not been totally satisfied. 

An investigation carried out by St Helena online into how the process of trying to get regular mail and goods couriered quickly to St Helena has resulted in the following..

We all know that logistically St Helena is a difficult place to get anything delivered to, whether it is a simple letter, a much needed spare part for an appliance or a replacement car part. 

Royal mail to St Helena. 

The question was raised with Royal Mail in the UK about the postal service connectivity to St Helena, Royal mail advised that specific items sent from the UK to St Helena is the aim is to be delivered within five to seven working days after posting.

When asked about what if mail or parcels get lost? According to the royal mail, an item being sent is only considered lost if it’s not delivered within 20 working days after that date it was due to be delivered. For an item going to the rest of the world, it’s 25 working days. If any items haven’t been delivered within these timescales, they advise the sender in the UK to complete a claim form for the loss of the items.   

Freight service agents view.

In speaking directly to some of the main St Helena air freight forwarding agents based in the UK the experience varied with the Air freight service that goes out via Joburg, some reported the odd delays whereas another was experiencing longer delays. In most cases St Helena air freight services in the UK relies on third party services to move air cargo to Joburg using the DHL transport service connecting the goods with Air links cargo services that will then fly the couriered items to St Helena. It was also noted that the best service to the Island was experienced via the previous direct Titan charter flights that was laid on by the St Helena Government during the pandemic.

Airlinks response to cargo delays.

When speaking directly to Airlink SA who is the service provider for both  passengers and cargo operations to the Island,  they explained that given the limited flights and available cargo capacity and the number of passengers and  luggage traveling to the Island,  it is rather unfortunate that they are unable to do great cargo uplifts from Jo-burg. This results in solicit guidance and assistance from the agent Solomons on the priority of the cargo and this in turn gets discussed with the St Helena Government  and a priority list is  given to work off. The priority list is pharmaceuticals, medication, diplomatic mail, DHL goods and perishables. It is hoped that with the introduction of weekly flights from the 8th October could minimize the extended offloads and stress this brings to all on the Island.

Jamestown post office

On St Helena, the Jamestown post office is operating business as usual with regular mail being distributed around the world to normal destinations such as the United Kingdom, all of the european countries including Italy, Portugal, Poland, Germany, Ukraine, Australia, Seychelles, USA, and as far as Japan and the rest of Asia. The post office on St Helena is also responsible for processing orders for stamp and currency collectors which continues to be successful.

Outgoing mail from St Helena is sent via Capetown on each call of the MV Helena, some letter and documentation is sent on the flight via Jo’burg, and also letters and packages can be sent on the Airlink flight via Ascension if there is space availability.

Lead times on mail sent via Ascension Island also depend on RAF flight availability, small parcels and mail is also dispatched on the MV Helena quarterly visits via Ascension. Incoming mail to St Helena is normally received via Capetown on the MV Helena or via the Ascension Island flights and the MV Helena when she sails from Ascension Island. 

Any one sending parcels to the Island that is over 2kgs should expect it to take longer to reach the Island as these are normally despatched via shipments and in most cases will go to South Africa before being sent to St Helena. It is highly recommended that written within the address to dispatch mail and parcels via Ascension Island, as this is proven to be the most reliable and faster route, it is also recommended to keep the parcel weight just under 2kg. If you are sending anything to St Helena remember to use the postcode STHL 1ZZ as the royal mail system is designed to route the mail correctly to St Helena Island on the South Atlantic.

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