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Bill for rollout of nationwide parcel network passed as Govt addresses security and accessibility concerns

SINGAPORE — The authorities are developing security guidelines and other requirements for the rollout of the nationwide parcel locker network, said Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Sim Ann in Parliament on Monday (April 5).

Information about the upcoming nationwide locker network at Serangoon North.

Information about the upcoming nationwide locker network at Serangoon North.

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  • Several amendments were introduced to the Postal Services Act which will take effect in the first half of this year
  • The amendments will allow for the smooth deployment of a network of parcel lockers
  • Ms Sim Ann assured the House that security measures will be in place, and the elderly and disabled will not be at a disadvantage from using it
  • She said delivery service providers must do their part to uplift the jobs of their delivery workers

 

SINGAPORE — The authorities are developing security guidelines and other requirements for the rollout of the nationwide parcel locker network, said Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Sim Ann in Parliament on Monday (April 5).

She said her ministry is working closely with the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Singapore Civil Defence Force on these issues to ensure that the locker design and parcel-handling workflows meet required safety and security standards.

Ms Sim was responding to several Members of Parliament (MPs) who had asked about the safeguards in place to mitigate security risks, such as the placement of harmful items or even the tampering of packages placed within the locker network, given that multiple delivery service providers will have access to them.

Other questions raised by the MPs after the second reading of the Postal Services (Amendment) Bill in Parliament on Monday included concerns about accessibility to the lockers for the elderly and disabled, and the potential displacement of delivery workers.

The Bill, which was passed on Monday and is expected to take effect within the first half of this year, amends the Postal Service Act to allow for the smooth deployment of 1,000 parcel locker stations across Singapore.

It was previously reported that the network, which is expected to be completed by end of this year, was to have rolled out the first batch of 200 locker stations within the first quarter of the year. Ms Sim said on Monday that this batch of lockers is expected to go live later this month.

Owned, operated and maintained by Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) subsidiary Pick Network, the locker stations will be located at key public locations such as Housing and Development Board (HDB) estates, MRT stations and bus interchanges, as well as community centres.

Residents can expect to have at least one parcel locker station located within 250m of their HDB blocks by the year-end, and each locker station will contain between 30 and 50 lockers, said IMDA previously.

NUMEROUS SAFEGUARDS

Several MPs including Mr Patrick Tay of Pioneer Single Member Constituency (SMC), Mr Don Wee of Choa Chu Kang Group Representation Constituency (GRC) and Mr Louis Ng, Nee Soon GRC MP, had asked questions related to the security of the lockers.

When asked how the authorities are monitoring and enforcing the placement of prohibited items before they are delivered to the lockers, Ms Sim said that parcels sent from overseas are screened by the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority.

For domestic parcels, she said there will be numerous safeguards in place.

While the amendments have introduced the new offence of placing prohibited items, such as hazardous materials or illicit items, in the lockers, each Pick locker station will include two CCTV cameras with round-the-clock video surveillance to aid investigations in theft cases.

Furthermore, she said that the locker compartments will have presence sensors to alert Pick if items appear in the lockers that are not supposed to be there, or if locker doors are not securely fastened.

The police, she said, also have the power to investigate the contents of lockers belonging to Pick and private sector operators, if they need to.

ACCESSIBILITY FOR SENIORS, DISABLED

On the question raised by Mr Tay, Tanjong Pagar GRC’s Joan Pereira and Yio Chu Kang SMC’s Yip Hon Weng about what support is available for senior citizens to use the locker network, Ms Sim said she believes that seniors who are able to make purchases online are also “very likely to be digitally ready” to use the network.

Nonetheless, she said there will be digital literacy support for the seniors to use the network through avenues like IMDA’s Seniors Go Digital programme.

As for inclusion of disability-friendly features and access to Pick’s lockers — a suggestion raised by Ang Mo Kio GRC’s Ng Ling Ling — Ms Sim said the authorities are working on these options.

This includes making the selection of wheelchair-friendly lockers an option for consumers when they check-out for their e-commerce purchases.

ON DELIVERY WORKERS

Both Mr Tay and Mr Yip had raised concerns about whether the livelihoods of delivery workers would be affected by the widespread deployment of the locker network.

“The question is not so much whether delivery workers will be displaced, but whether they can enjoy better prospects,” said Ms Sim, adding that increased productivity is an important precondition for upgrading jobs and uplifting workers.

Ms Sim said that while the locker network strives to fulfil its role in achieving productivity for all delivery service providers, the authorities expect these companies to play an active part in training and equipping their workers.

“Through this partnership, we hope that the network will help to bring about better jobs and better prospects for delivery workers,” she said.

THE AMENDMENTS

Here is a quick look at some of the key amendments to the Postal Services Act:

Delivery of small parcels

At present, only SingPost is able to deliver small parcels into a letterbox as the postal service provider is the sole company that has exclusive access to the master door of a letter box nest.

While a regulatory framework exists for SingPost to offer delivery services to a recipient’s letter box for postal licensees such as DHL or World Marketing Group, it is limited to just letters.

When the amendments to the Act take effect, SingPost will then be similarly required to deliver small parcels for delivery service providers or online merchants, under regulated terms and conditions, into the letter boxes.

Deployment of parcel network

The amendments will also extend the exclusive privilege of IMDA as the postal authority to include the installation and operation of the public parcel locker network in specified premises.

The intent of this change is to minimise the inconvenience that stems from different operators deploying their own competing parcel lockers in the same location, as well as providing the authority with greater legal certainty to go about the installation and operation of the network — which will be done by Pick.

Enforcement powers

To ensure that the parcel locker networks are not abused, the amendments have also introduced enforcement powers for IMDA to take action against individuals who commit offences such as, among others, vandalism of the lockers, or putting hazardous or objectionable items into the locker.

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