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State postal service to be rationalized, more automated from new year

The old skool Eesti Post mailbox (left) is likely to soon be a thing of the past, superseded by the Omniva parcel machines (right - Omniva and Eesti Post are the same state entity).
The old skool Eesti Post mailbox (left) is likely to soon be a thing of the past, superseded by the Omniva parcel machines (right - Omniva and Eesti Post are the same state entity). Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The new year will bring a radical overhaul in the national post service provided by Eesti Post/Omniva. The changes will include far more automation than previously was the case, with parcel vending machines increasingly replacing post offices. At the same time, human couriers will be available to-order, to replace post boxes.

The changes follow a government order, to come into effect in the new year, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported Tuesday, and also come in the wake of a National Audit Office report, which said that the state postal service was woefully outdated.

Eesti Post board chair Mart Mägi told AK that:" Currently, there are 265 post offices and post offices in Estonia, while the regulation provides for 215. We could [however] say that the estimated 150 staffed points, where individuals are on hand to provide a service, is more-or-less realistic for Estonia."

IT and foreign trade minister Andres Sutt (Reform) confirmed the overhaul was to go ahead.

Sutt told AK that: "Essentially, the changes that will affect the postal network are simply a modernization using solutions which are viable today. This does not just concern the post office, but also mobile access points, which could include a van, an automated device or a parcel machine."

Concurrent with the closure of post offices, Omniva says up to 65 new parcel machines are to be installed by the end of January, with the same number being added by the end of 2022. 

According to Mägi, sending a card or a letter should also become easier, because the letterbox no longer has to be searched with a match.

The change will make sending snail mail easier for the public, Mägi added, as parcel machines tend to be located at high-throughflow places such as shopping malls, which individuals often visit in any case, as opposed to the often less convenient location of traditional post boxes (these are painted orange, lest readers had not noticed them up until now – ed.).

Newspaper and periodical delivery, including in outlying areas of the country, will remain unchanged, AK reported.

Under the new regulations, all members of the public leaving five or more kilometers from a post office, be it in town or country, will be able to summons a courier to send even the smallest items via post, though the details of how this will be done have not yet been finalized, though would be conducted online or by phone call – the question of solutions for those who have no access to the internet or a phone connection is also to be looked at.

Conversely, capacity at the former, small post boxes will be agglomerated into larger parcel machines, some of whose size is still to be determined and depends on demand.

The pandemic has also led to a surge in the use of parcel machines, robot delivery, courier services, e-commerce and similar.

The changes will be in effect soon after January 1, and affect the state-owned Eesti Post/Omniva. Private sector parcel machine providers such as the Finnish-owned Itella SmartPOST, and couriers such as DHL, are unaffected by the developments.

Auditor General Janar Holm issued a report just before Christmas, which stated that the national postal service was unnecessarily costly and unprofitable and was in need of modernization.

At the same time, the question of providing newspaper and periodical delivery to more remote areas – in the interests of ensuring equality of access to information and news – has long bumped up against the economic realities for the main print media firms, primarily the Postimees Group, Ekspress Meedia and Õhtuleht.

The state is, however, subsidizing deliveries next year to the tune of over €4.5 million, more than double the figure for 2021.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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