Our day today began with a visit with the largest port terminal in Vietnam, called the Cat Lai Terminal which is run by the Saigon New Port Corporation. The terminal receives ships with shipping crates, unloads the ships, stores the shipping crates depending on the specific temperature it needs to be kept at, and will load the shipping crates onto trucks or barges when the time is right for the cargo to travel elsewhere. They deal with both domestic and international cargo, and are account for 85% of HCMC’s shipping and almost half of the whole country’s shipping. They are actually in a prime location in relation to the major shipping lines, which has been contributing in part to their large annual growth recently (14% last year). Similar shipping terminals and companies are located near the capital, Hanoi, but a ship would have to travel further to Hanoi, so Cat Lai (close to HCMC) has a location advantage over Hanoi’s.
The company uses a software organizational system to keep track of the shipments they are receiving, storing or transporting, as well as a tracking system to allow the companies using the terminal to track the location of their particular containers. Because the terminal deals with imports, they have to work with customs officials in order to bring the shipments in to Vietnam to store and/or ship them to a different location. The person in charge of the shipment must report what is in the container, but if they are expected of suspicious cargo, their container can be subject to physical examination or even x-ray.
In the afternoon, we were able to visit the Independence Palace, known today as the Reunification Palace. Before the Vietnam War, the Independence Palace was inhabited by the President of South Vietnam (The Republic of Viet Nam) and his family. There, he lived, entertained, and conducted business. His wife and his Vice President also had offices and/or official rooms they could use to have meetings and entertain guests, respectively.
During the Vietnam War, the basement (also a bomb shelter) became a headquarters of sorts for government intelligence, where government officials made decisions and gathered intel. After the evacuation and the fall of Saigon, the North Vietnamese Army rolled tanks through the street and knocked down the gates of the palace. From the second tank, a soldier jumped out a placed a communist flag on palace’s flagpole, officially signaling the democratic defeat by the communists and claiming it for the reunified communist country of Vietnam. It is because this palace was (and still is to this day) a symbol of the reunification of a united Vietnam that it has been nicknamed “Reunification Palace,” although its official name remains Independence Palace.