Problems on hold
The Russian plane crash over Sinai Peninsula last October, suspected to be a terrorist act, led to global apprehension regarding safety measures in Egyptian airports and dealt a terrible blow to tourism and to incoming and outgoing air freight. Later official announcements insisted that Egyptian and foreign airport security experts were working closely together to ensure that security measures in Egyptian airports were up to international standards. But these appeared to allude to the security of travellers rather than freight or cargo. As though to prove that point, a news item printed on the first page of the Cairo daily Al-Ahram Thursday 12 May announced that the German government has finally lifted its ban on the shipment of luggage aboard the same flights boarded by tourists travelling to Sharm al-Sheikh Airport. The ban had been imposed last November in the wake of the Russian plane crash.
The turbulent climate has taken its toll on Watani’s distribution to subscribers outside Egypt, especially those in the US, Canada and Australia. Ever since the Russian plane crash last November we have been receiving an unprecedented number of complaints that issues of Watani, which we airmail to subscribers, have not been reaching them.
At first we thought the problem had to do with some delay in the sorting and distribution of the dispatched mail. Watani addressed the relevant officials at Egypt Post Authority, hoping they would swiftly solve the problem as they used to in the past. Yet complaints from Watani subscribers abroad continued to pour in, informing that the paper was no longer being delivered to them. The postal authority officials whom we contacted informed us that the security procedures adopted since the Russian plane crash oblige all outgoing Egyptian post to be rerouted through the UAE for re-inspection and security check before it is dispatched to destinations. The officials at the postal authority assured us that these procedures were only temporary and were to be lifted after the efforts at securing Egyptian airports bear fruit. We informed Watani’s angry subscribers accordingly, and begged for their understanding and patience.
As the months went by, however, the situation persisted even as Watani continued to regularly ship its issues to subscribers. On 20 April we filed a new complaint to the postal authority, urging those in charge to swiftly take matters in hand in order to put an end to this problem which was burdening us with professional and financial losses.
On 12 May we received a message from the director of external postal traffic at Egypt Post. It read:
“Referring to the complaint you filed regarding complaints by subscribers abroad (in the US, Canada and Australia): we wish to inform you that, owing to the fact that some airfreight companies have halted traffic to and from the aforementioned countries, it is not possible for Egypt Post to dispatch any post to these countries. Accordingly, the [postal] service to these countries has been discontinued till the airfreight companies resume their activity in this regard. Thank you for your cooperation.
Signed: Mr M.A. – director of external post traffic.”
Egypt Post’s recent letter effectively put an end to all hopes to resume sending Watani to subscribers outside Egypt. Even though the postal authority made it clear that the blame lay with the airfreight companies, a question persists begging an answer. Are we to understand that there is a complete paralysis in the postal service between Egypt and the rest of the world? If true, why have we only known this through our exchange of letters with the postal authority? Why was not the problem transparently made public? I am sure many other Egyptians, individuals or institutions, suffer as a result of this postal predicament. Should this incident go down to the account of the notorious lack of transparency in Egypt?
Until this odd situation is clarified, and Watani resumes reaching its subscribers abroad, I apologise to all of them and urge them to patiently wait.
16 May 2016