Wednesday, April 25, 2012

ABC of International Mail Routing

 tags: destination countries, international mail, international destinations, international postal logistics

International mail may enter the postal stream in multiple ways.  Decisions about the logistical path affect package design, legal and documentation requirements, cost, and delivery rate and time.  It will affect whether and how undelivered items are returned.  The main ways are

·   a letter or package can be sent directly to the local postal facility, entering the mail stream immediately in its country of origin or

·   items can be shipped, as commercial freight, to another country and entered into the postal stream from that country or they can be sorted and shipped to each final destination country and mailed within those countries or

·   an electronic file can be sent to a country or countries and the material printed and mailed there.

The different logistical paths are sometimes identified using letters to indicate the countries where international mail will be processed in some way, with A indicating the country of origin, B the next country it transits, and C the country, or countries, of destination. 

Fig. 1   Route for AB mail

AB mail goes from country A directly to country B as shown in Figure 1.  Pieces of mail addressed to any foreign destination and mailed directly at the post office would be AB mail.  Mail sent by services using a mail consolidator working in conjunction with the postal operator in country A would also be AB mail.  Items shipped as commercial freight to the country of destination and then entered into the postal stream – i.e. mailed – in that country for local delivery is also AB mail.  This last method is used to create a local appearance or to take advantage of quicker or less expensive delivery in the country of destination.

Fig. 2   Route for ABC mail

Mail from country A shipped to country B for delivery in country C is referred to as ABC mail, as diagrammed in Figure 2.  As with AB mail, there are a number of ways that the items can be shipped between countries A, B and C.  They may be commercial freight between countries A and B, enter the mail stream through the local postal service in country B for delivery to country C or they may be forwarded as freight from country A to country B for further processing and forwarding as freight to country C, where they enter the mail stream through the local postal service in the country of destination.  ABC mail is most frequently used to take advantage of a particularly advantageous postal rate or a service available in another country.  It has become more problematic since UPU rules were modified in 2008.

Many large mailings to multiple countries use a mix of AB and ABC mail.  Magazines, marketing mail, and transactional mail from large financial institutions or corporations frequently use a mix of methods to reduce the costs and optimize timely delivery.

It is important to note that shipping mail from the country of origin for mailing back to the country of origin, sometimes called ABA mail, is illegal.