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MAJURO, Marshall Islands (April 20, 2001 – Marshall Islands Journal)---RMI and U.S. postal service officials were hit with a barrage of questions and complaints about mail service by people attending last week’s Chamber of Commerce meeting at the Outrigger (hotel).

Leo Tudela, the USPS country manager for the Freely Associated States in Honolulu, was on hand for the meeting, as was RMI postmaster Sailass Andrike and his deputy, Danny Note, Continental regional manager Art Day, and Asia Pacific vice president Robert Walker, who operates a weekly mail charter service to Majuro.

Tudela made clear during the meeting that:

· The RMI Postal Service is an independent agency under the Ministry of Finance, not under the control of the USPS. "Once the mail lands at Majuro, it’s under RMI authority," Tudela said.

· There is no backlog of mail in either Guam or Honolulu. The charter flight can handle up to 30,000 pounds but the weekly mail load coming inform Honolulu averages just 12,000-15,000 pounds.

· With once-a-week charter service for mail, all mail coming from Hawai‘i should reach Majuro in 7-10 days.

Danny confirmed this: "Asia Pacific (charter) never leaves mail behind."

Tudela explained that the mail system involves three organizations: the USPS, the airlines and the RMI Postal Service.

Tudela, who is originally from Saipan, said he has been involved in working to resolve the Marshalls mail problem since 1997, when a "summit" of U.S. and Marshall Islands officials met to come up with solutions, what was then an emerging crisis.

The USPS is required by the Compact to provide the same level of mail service as existed prior to the Compact coming into effect in 1986, he said. This has presented difficulties when there was only one carrier, the number of flights declined in the mid-1990s, and rules changed that placed mail as a third priority behind passengers and baggage in contrast to an earlier "must-ride" status.

But Tudela said with the weekly charter arrangement with Asia Pacific – that costs the USPS $40,000 per week – most of the delivery problems have been cleared up.

He said that the USPS continues to look at all available options for improving mail delivery, including the possibility of having Aloha carry mail. They have attempted to get mail on military flights into Kwajalein, which could then be ferried to Majuro. But he said military officials have refused to consider carrying mail to the RMI on their regular flights.

People attending the Chamber meeting asked numerous questions:

· How long to get a letter from Hawai‘i to Majuro? (Tudela: No later than three days if there’s a plane, but within one week with the Saturday charter.)

· Why are we just now receiving magazines mailed in September and October 2000? (Tudela: The boat leaves Oakland once a month. There’s no backlog of mail there. There are 50 bags of periodicals in the Majuro Post Office that have not been opened.)

· Why can’t mail be put out in boxes on a timely basis? (Sailas Andrike: We’re doing our best; we work Saturdays and Sundays.)

· If we could get express mail and parcels within two weeks, we’d use the service. (Tudela: Since last year, express mail has been arriving every week.)

Tudela said as part of the USPS RMI relationship, he provides training and consultation services, and will continue doing so in the future.



MAJURO, Marshall Islands (April 20, 2001 – Marshall Islands Journal)---Local businesses were told last week to clear out their merchandise from the Majuro Post Office or it will be sent back.

U.S. Postal Service country manager for the Freely Associated States Leo Tudela and RMI Postmaster Sailass Andrike said that three businesses have not collected more than 100 boxes of merchandise that are cluttering up the Majuro Post Office.

"A lot of these parcels have been there for more than two months," Tudela said: "I’ve advised (Local postal officials) to give 30 days and then send it back."

Andrike said businesses told him they can’t pick up their parcels – many of which are sent COD – because they haven’t received invoices from the senders.

Tudela said he was surprised to see local businesses selecting which COD packages they want to pickup and leaving the rest at the Post Office. The Post Office isn’t a warehouse for the companies to use, he indicated.

"It should be first in, first out," he said.

The Marshall Islands Journal, Box 14, Majuro, Marshall Islands 96960 E-mail:  Subscriptions (weekly): 1 year US $87.00; international $213.00 (air mail).

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