WCO and UPU take action to facilitate the sharing of information on the global postal supply chain in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic

21 April 2020

On 15 April 2020, the World Customs Organization (WCO) and the Universal Postal Union (UPU) sent a joint letter to inform their respective Members of the actions taken by the WCO and the UPU in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, emphasizing that coordination between Customs administrations and designated postal operators (DOs) is critical to the continued facilitation of the global postal supply chain, and to mitigating the outbreak’s overall impact on our societies.

As a result of COVID-19’s impact on the aviation industry, a large portion of international mail has had to be shifted from air to surface transportation, such as sea and land (road and rail). As a result, some Customs authorities may now be confronted with postal documentation intended for other modes of transport at land border ports due to the need to reroute postal traffic. Therefore, Customs administrations were encouraged to be flexible and accept postal shipments with any of the accompanying legitimate UPU documentation (e.g. CN 37 (for surface mail), CN 38 (for airmail) or CN 41 (for surface airlifted mail) delivery bills).

In addition to the provisions relating to postal items contained in the WCO’s Revised Kyoto Convention (RKC), the UPU Convention and its regulations preserve the freedom-of-transit principle for international postal items. Given that the RKC does not preclude Customs administrations from conducting necessary controls, in the letter, WCO Members were urged to facilitate international postal traffic procedures. Customs administrations were encouraged to take due consideration of the RKC recommendation, which establishes that customs shall accept as the goods transit declaration any commercial or transport document for the consignment concerned that meets all customs requirements (Recommended Practice 6, Chapter 1, Specific Annex E).

In addition, the WCO has created a section on its website to assist supply chain stakeholders with customs issues related to the COVID-19 outbreak: www.wcoomd.org/en/topics/facilitation/activities-and-programmes/ natural-disaster/coronavirus.aspx.

This section includes the following:

  • A list of HS Classification references for COVID-19-related medical supplies;
  • Examples of WCO Members’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic; and
  • The latest WCO communications on the outbreak, including:
    • information on the introduction of temporary export restrictions on certain categories of critical medical supplies (from the European Union, Viet Nam, Brazil, India, Russian Federation, and Ukraine, among others);
    • urgent notices (e.g. on counterfeit medical supplies).

Members were encouraged to consult the WCO’s COVID-19 webpage, which is updated regularly.

Since the outbreak, the UPU has been publishing urgent messages from its members on disruptions to the global postal supply chain and response measures to the pandemic received through its Emergency Information System (EmIS). For summaries of the EmIS messages received, Union member countries and their DOs may consult the COVID-19 status table at www.upu.int/en/activities/quality-of-service/communication-from-member-countries-on-covid-19.html.

Furthermore, the UPU has prepared a new dynamic reporting tool consolidating transport solutions by rail and air freight within its Quality Control System (QCS) Big Data platform, which is updated regularly based on input from all supply chain partners and available to all Union member countries and their DOs at qcsmailbd.ptc.post.