Entering the cavernous warehouse of the Airport Post Office is stepping into a hive of activity.
Since the Seven Mile Beach Post Office was severely damaged and closed due to Hurricane Ivan, the APO has operated like two post offices in one.
Eight postal officers from SMB attend 2,268 mailboxes that have been set up for SMB use in the warehouse as well as manage the special SMB counter.
These officers work alongside the 30 APO staffers who sort incoming and outgoing mail for all districts and international destinations in addition to handling registered mail and parcels.
SMB customers continue to collect mail at the SMB window in the APO and this has led to some frustration for customers. ‘Requesting mail over the counter instead of checking a private box is not what SMB customers are used to but we ask for their understanding at this time’ said Deputy Postmaster, Anthony Williams.
Proof of identification is still required to collect SMB mail and those without ID are asked to sign name, date and box number into a logbook.
‘There are many special requests for the SMB boxes such as when a condo manager is asked to collect mail for owners — logging the mail collections prevents fraud,’ Mr. Williams said.
SMB Officers rotate duties during the day including sorting mail into boxes and serving the mail request desk. Mr. Williams explained that with the new arrangement means that SMB officers receive mail directly from the APO sorters; that mail immediately goes into the SMB boxes, resulting in quicker service.
Sharing a workplace has not hampered the overall performance of the Postal Service; statistics show a 30 per cent increase in 2004 over the previous year for local and foreign mail, including registered letters and parcels. As expected there was a dramatic fall in postal usage in September 2004 in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Ivan but there was a healthy resurgence in December 2004.
One of the main concerns for the Postal Service is items incorrectly addressed and lacking a box number.
Surprisingly, companies are the main culprits and are reminded to inform offshore clients of their full address, including the proper box number.
Mr. Williams noted that letter sorters go through 40-60 items per minute, but if forced to slow down to scrutinize an address, their output is reduced to less than 20 per minute. Letters with incorrect addresses are now taken out and stamped ‘return to sender’. Formerly, officers would look up addresses manually but with over 12 million items going through the system in 2004 alone, there is no longer sufficient time to do this. However, returning mail to the sender comes at a cost to the Postal Service which must pay air conveyance and terminal fees at the destination post office.