Wednesday was the last day of operations for eight Omniva postal service points in Saaremaa, and 45 mailboxes throughout the island are slated to be removed in the near future as well. By this fall, Eesti Post intends to cut the number of post offices and postal service points across Estonia to 182.
After years of operation, the postal service point in the Western Saaremaa village of Aste closed on Wednesday, alongside seven others on the island. Over the next two months, a total of 19 postal service points will be closed, reducing the nationwide total to 182 by November 1.
"Well it was used — some seven people a day," said Lea Raamat, director of Aste Library. "But Aste is also the closest postal service point to Kuressaare, meaning that people living further out in the county will lose more."
Raamat noted that customers used the Aste location to pick up packages as well as to buy postage stamps and envelopes.
Each day, mail carrier Eve Vahter drives a 180-kilometer route to empty eight mailboxes. On average, she may pick up just two or three letters a day.
The share of letters being handled by Omniva continues to decline, just as the mailing of packages continues to increase.
This July, for example, Saaremaa residents mailed a total of 12,700 packages — 1,000 more than during the same time last year. Meanwhile, an average of 2,400 letters per month have been mailed in Saaremaa thus far this year, down from 3,200 a month last year.
"With mailboxes, we'll first and foremost be removing those that are either old or have not been used to mail a single letter in months," explained Omniva board member Kristi Unt. "There are actually quite a lot of those."
Omniva is also launching a new pilot project on the Western Estonian island as well. It's such a novelty that the postal company's own employees have been checking out the innovative package lockers it will be offering to the islanders for testing.
"Cluster mailboxes are well known in Estonia — you'll find cluster mailboxes for newspapers and letters at the edge of every village and at the ends of many streets," Unt said. "Now we want to bring package services even closer to our clients."
"Such a closure of postal service points can have a negative impact on the local community, but these alternative solutions being offered, if anything, provide further opportunities," noted Saaremaa Deputy Municipal Mayor Liis Lepik.
Eesti Post, which operates internationally under the Omniva brand, is Estonia's universal postal service provider. In addition to mail delivery, it also operates post offices, more limited postal service points as well as a courier service.
Editor: Aili Vahtla