The Sea Post Office on Board the Steamship or Ocean Liner
THE SEA POST OFFICE.
On many of the trans-Atlantic lines having mail contracts a "marine post office" is in operation. There are sea post offices on nearly all of the express steamers belonging to lines having mail contracts.
The post office proper is usually located on the main deck of the steamer, while below it, say, two decks lower, is a large storage room. The post office is proVided with the requisite sorting shelves, pigeon holes, packing and stamping cabin, and the subalterns in the second cabin.
On one of the German lines, for example, the staff consists of two German and two United States post office clerks, and three German post office subaltern officials, furnished by the postal administration of the German Empire alone, because this class of officials is not known in the United States postal service, where the work done by the German subalterns is attended to hy the post office clerks.
In the direction towards America, the German post office clerk, and on the tables, as well as bag stands, which serve to secure the bags for the reception of the sorted letters. Through a window in the door of the room the officials communicate with passengers (when necessary).
The registered mail is sorted in a specially screened off space. The storage rooms are usually connected with the post office by electric elevators. If the than is so bulky that the office rooms are not sufficient for its accommodation, part of the sealed mail sacks are stored in the hold of the ship.
The post office clerks are accommodated in the first trip to Germany, the United States post office clerk, is the chief official of the sea post office on board, and consequently is responsible for the mails. The passengers are not admitted to the sea post office rooms.
It is the principal business of the post office clerks on the trips to New York to sort the United States mail, particularly letters and postal cards, in such a manner that they are ready either for immediate delivery in New York City or for transfer by the next inland mail ; on the trips to Germany the mail for the German terminal post offices is to be dealt with so as to have a large portion of the German mails ready for disembarkation at Plymouth and Cherbourg, whence they 'are forwarded to the places of destination by the faster overland routes.
The post office clerks are, moreover, responsible for the methodical transfer and safe storage of the mails, for the emptying of the ship letter boxes and the handling of the correspondence deposited therein, they have to attend to ordinary and registered correspondence handed in at the post office window by the passengers and crew, to sell postage stamps, postal cards, etc., to the passengers and crew, to distribute correspondence arrived for the latter, and to watch over the safe delivery of the closed- mails at the ports of call and the terminal port of the voyage.
Furthermore, it is the business of the sea post office clerks to receive telegrams from the passengers and crew, during the trip from the last port of call to the German terminal port, to prepay them and forward them to the place of destination immediately after lapding in the German port by a telegraph messenger provided by the post office of the said port.
The sea post offices keep a stock of postage stamps, etc., of both the German and United States postal administrations for sale ; for the payment of the postage, German postage stamps must be used when the articles are posted in German ports or on the trip from Germany to New York, and postage stamps of the United States must be used when the correspondence is posted in ports of the United States or during the trip from New York to Bremerhaven.
During the stay of the steamer at ports of call, only such letters can be received as are prepaid by postage stamps of the country in which the port of call is located. Since January 1, 1909, a new tariff is in force by which letters are carried between the United States and Germany, and the United States and England, for two cents per half ounce.
The ship letter boxes must be emptied at least once a day, and immediately before the arrival at each port touched on-the line. All correspondence taken from the boxes is stamped with the date stamp, which Is changed daily. During the stay of the steamer at ports of call the ship letter boxes must be kept closed, so as to avoid letters prepaid by other than the stamps admissible for the respective country being dropped into them.
Upon the arrival of the steamer at Quarantine Station at Staten Island the United States mail steamer is found in waiting to take the mail and convey it quickly to the harbor post office in New York, when the mail carts carry it to the district post offices or to the railway stations.
The time is surely near when all fast steamers plying between New York and foreign ports will be fitted with floating post offices in which European and United States post office clerks will effect the postal traffic between the three continents of Europe, America and Asia for the benefit of trade and industry.