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Postal Regulations Ban Laptops, Other Electronic Devices from Military Mail


​In a move that will affect servicemembers deployed the world over in service to our nation, the U.S. Postal Service now prohibits shipment of laptop computers or anything else that contains a lithium battery to any APO, FPO or DPO addresses.

The ultimate issue is a recent law, signed by President Barack Obama, that directs the Department of Transportation to bring its own regulations concerning lithium batteries with those of the International Civil Aviation Organization. The Department of Transportation in turn, directed the U.S. Postal Service to enforce the directive against lithium batteries, which are designated as a Class 9 hazard, and banned from international mail.

The rule went into effect on May 16th. However, according to a release by the U.S. Postal Service, they Service anticipates that by the beginning of next year you will once again be able to mail “specific quantities” of these batteries overseas. At that time, you can also send lithium batteries when they are properly installed in the electronic devise or equipment.

What does this mean?

It means that at least from now until January 1, you can’t technically send a laptop, tablet device, smartphone or other device containing a lithium battery to loved ones stationed overseas. It will also mean that servicemembers and others stationed overseas will have a hard time buying these items online, as reputable manufacturers and dealers will be very reluctant to flout postal regulations and risk big fines to send a laptop overseas.

What’s Covered?

Expect to have a hard time shipping any of the following devices via the U.S. Postal Service:

  • Video cameras
  • Walkie talkies (two-way radio)
  • GPS devices
  • Radio-controlled toys
  • Cameras
  • Scanners
  • Cell phones
  • MP3 players
  • Bluetooth headsets
  • Smartphones
  • Laptop computers
  • Electronic shavers
  • Power drills
  • Tablets
  • Portable DVD players
  • Electronic measuring equipment

Safety Concerns

Postal regulators are concerned that lithium batteries may overheat in transit, in the event of a fire, and cause a chain reaction as they combust, potentially spreading a fire. Lithium batteries have been implicated the destruction of one U.S. cargo jet every other year. Naturally, though, they are A-OK, certified Kosher for domestic air mail. It is only international traffic that poses the problem.

Part of the problem is that international mail routinely travels as cargo on passenger jets, and officials are concerned about fires on these passenger-carrying planes.

There is no explanation about how those safety concerns will no longer be relevant after January 1st.

Alternatives

If you are willing to pay extra, private cargo carriers such as UPS, DHS and FedEx will still take these electronic items for delivery – the potential for fire doesn’t seem to be a big deal for them – but they have limited reach, and cannot deliver to APOs and fleet post office addresses.

Servicemembers can also local-purchase these items from dealers overseas, but that would entail the loss of any dealer warrantees, if any exist in the first place, when the servicemember transfers out. The servicemember may also be able to purchase them via AAFES or the Navy-Marine Corps Exchange system, if they can get to a large facility overseas. This won’t be much help to those stationed in remote areas, or aboard ships, however.

Alternatively, you can buy these items before you deploy, if you can afford to. Or you can finance them. But be cautious of off-post electronic finance scams.

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