Cayman gets missing mail

Pieces of mail dating from as far back as 20 December 2004 are now being sent to the Cayman Islands after an apparent mix-up between a shipping company and its freight forwarder.

Anthony Williams

Deputy Postmaster General Anthony Williams with about half of the mail which arrived, more than two years late, at the Airport Post Office. Photo: Brent Fuller

Postmaster General Sheena Glasgow estimated some 4,000 pieces of mail dated between December 2004 and February 2005 were left at a Thompson Line warehouse in Miami. The mail was discovered 20 April 2007 when Thompson Shipping personnel were cleaning out the warehouse.

All the pieces are surface mail believed to be from the UK and Europe, although Ms Glasgow admitted mail from other countries that ship through the UK…such as Australia and New Zealand…might be included as well.

63 bags of mail containing about 2,000 pieces were sent to Cayman on 26 April. The rest are expected to be delivered Thursday.

Cayman Islands Postal Service workers are busy sorting through the old mail now, and Ms Glasgow said some items have already been delivered.

‘It is mostly what we call ‘flat’ in the industry – magazines, large flat packets, sometimes documents, books,’ Ms Glasgow said. ‘Most people tend not to send anything of high value or that is time sensitive by surface mail.’

The Postal Service acknowledged that some of the people the mail was intended for may have moved from the islands in the past two and a half years.

‘It is a concern of mine that some of these people will likely have left Grand Cayman after Hurricane Ivan,’ said Ms Glasgow. ‘If that person no longer receives mail at that P.O. Box and mail is returned to us, then we will…return it to sender.’

Ms Glasgow said the problem with the mail actually had nothing to do with Ivan, but rather occurred because of a payment issue between Thompson Line and its freight forwarder.

The Thompson Line company issued the following statement on the matter: ‘HM Postal Service (Royal Mail) in the UK contracted with a freight forwarder in Miami, Florida to forward this mail to the Cayman Islands. Due to non-payment of freight charges to Thompson Line by the freight forwarding company, mail could not be shipped from Miami, Florida to Grand Cayman.’

The Thompson Line statement also noted that the company has been unable to contact the freight forwarder to determine what happened.

Ms Glasgow said Thompson Line has paid the costs of shipping the 2004-2005 mail packages to Cayman.

‘They did know about (the mail), because they would have had to receive it in their warehouse,’ she said.

The Postmaster General said the issue with the freight forwarders used by the Royal Mail first came to the Cayman Islands Postal Service’s attention in June 2004 when problems occurred with mail dating back to March ’04.

‘After those two shipments, Thompson Line tried to settle the payments issue with the freight forwarder in Miami directly, and according to their statement…the freight forwarder would have needed to pay Thompson line up front before Thompson Line would forward the mail to us here in Grand Cayman,’ Ms Glasgow said.

Ms Glasgow said there was not a major delay with the March 2004 mail. However, she said the payment issue resurfaced later in the year which affected the December ’04-February ’05 mail.

‘Then Thompson Line held the mail in their warehouse until it could be paid,’ she said. ‘What transpired in between, I really don’t know.’

‘What I do know is we did have Hurricane Ivan in September so I can only imagine that that also played a role in terms of what they were shipping out.’