In the pristine waters off Pulau Layang-Layang in Sabah, divers might come across a rather peculiar object. Rectangular and painted a shade of vivid red, it looks just like a ... postbox?
That’s right, your eyes are not deceiving you. A public postbox for your mail – located 40m below sea level.
Launched in early August, the project is an initiative by Pos Malaysia and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC).
It was partly spurred by the successful installation of Malaysia’s highest postbox at Mount Kinabalu, Sabah, in February.
Weighing about 500kg, the underwater postbox is made of fibreglass while the frame is made of galvanised steel. It’s also environmentally friendly.
Responding via e-mail, Pos Malaysia’s covering group chief executive officer Azlan Shahrim says he’s confident that the underwater postbox will become a worldwide attraction. More importantly, the project supports the government’s efforts to strengthen national sovereignty (kedaulatan, in Malay) in the South China Sea. According to him, this is achieved through postal infrastructure and services.
“The programme was carried out under the ‘Program Kedaulatan Pulau Layang-Layang’. It focuses on extending the postal services on the island by introducing a special postcode, special postmark, postbox, underwater postmen and the appointment of a stamp agent at the island,” he explains.
At the official launch of the project on Aug 7, Communications and Multimedia deputy minister Datuk Jailani Johari unveiled a special 88005 zip code for Pulau Layang-Layang.
Jailani reportedly says through the special postcode, the island will be recognised as part of Malaysia and thus, enhances the country’s sovereignty and claim to the Exclusive Economic Zone.
The Communications and Multimedia Ministry, National Security Council, Royal Malaysian Navy, Avillion Layang-Layang Resort, Fisheries Department and National Film Development Corporation Malayisa (Finas) were also integral in making the project a success.
And with the MCMC being the central co-ordinator of the project, Azlan says whatever challenges that cropped up were efficiently ironed out.
These included obtaining relevant approvals and logistics co-ordination.
The MCMC is collaborating with Finas to produce a documentary on the project. Filming covered the initial stages of the project, and continued up to the design, fabrication, transportation and installation of the postbox as well as the launch event.
The underwater postbox is not just for display purposes, Azlan assures. Mail will be collected from the postbox by underwater postmen; stamped with a special postmark depicting the hammerhead shark (the island’s signature marine life); and dispatched by a MAS-Wings’ plane to Kota Kinabalu for further processing. Markings using a special date stamp will be done at the Kota Kinabalu mail centre.
Where is the mail coming from? Divers can share their experiences with family and friends through a truly unique travel memorabilia – an underwater postcard.
“We have produced 500 pieces of waterproof postcards. They are exclusively sold at Avillion Resort, Pulau Layang-Layang. They will be issued to visitors of the resort as part of the tour package,” says Azlan.
The postcards, made from synthetic paper, are priced at RM5 each.
Those are not the only things that can be delivered through the sunken postbox.
“As we do provide waterproof underwater case covers, letters and postcards can also be posted,” Azlan offers.
Of course, one must not forget the individuals who will dive to the seabed to retrieve the mail daily.
“Essentially, they must be very experienced master divers,” Azlan says, when asked about the important criteria for the job.
Avillion Resort has appointed Kota Belud locals Victorley Marden and Ritchie Lester Lee as the underwater postmen.
Lee, a dive centre manager on the island, has more than 10 years of diving experience and has held a diving licence since 2001. And Marden, a dive master, got his diving licence in 2011.
The Pulau Layang-Layang underwater postbox has made it to the Malaysia Book Of Records as the deepest postbox in the country.
Currently, the record-holder for deepest postbox in the world is Susami in Wakayama, Japan; the postbox there is 10m deep.
Pos Malaysia and MCMC are planning to register with the Guinness World Records for the Pulau Layang-Layang underwater postbox to be the new world’s deepest postbox.
“We believe such unique and record-breaking attractions will attract tourists and divers from around the world,” Azlan concludes.