Paquebot Mail – Stamps and Cancellations on Paquebot Covers

Today I wish to add another facet of Philately -The Paquebot Mail. It is also known by various other names across different countries and regions. These other names are “Ship Mail” in Australia, Posted at Sea in different countries, “Schiffsbrief” in Austria and Germany, “Pachhibot” in Italy, “Paketboot” in The Netherlands and its Colonies, “Paquete” in Portugal and its Colonies and “Paquetboat” in the United States.

This field of Philately is very interesting and let me assure you it can be mysterious to find all the information from every Paquetbot cover.

Under the UPU regulations, letters and cards posted at sea should be affixed with the postage stamps of the country under which the vessel is registered. the Postal rates of such country shall apply. If the vessel is at a port when the postcard or letter is handed over it is required to be affixed with stamps of the country in whose waters the vessel is docked. Though not stated in practice, letters with stamps of the country of last port of call are also accepted.

When a ship reaches a port the purser or postal officer delivers all the mail received during the voyage to the post office serving the port. The mail is then marked “Paquebot” or the equivalent and is postmarked by the post office and entered into the mail delivery system. A handstamp put on board the ship is not a postal marking.

The paquebot marking is often a straight line or boxed handstamp applied somewhere on the cover. Sometimes it is incorporated into a postmark or cancelling device. Even handwritten paquebot markings are acceptable, as long as it is written in ink.