This morning was another early one, as we were ready to go in the lobby at 7:30 to head to Cat Lai Terminal. Cat Lai Terminal is one of the largest ports in Vietnam, and the company Saigon Newport Corporation, SNP, is the company that operates at this terminal. Upon our arrival, we were led into a room and given a presentation that outlined the company and their work at Cat Lai in relation to Vietnam and the Vietnamese economy. SNP is a state-owned company that is a part of the Ministry of Defense for Vietnam, and was founded in 1989. At SNP, they offer three main services: port operation, shipping & offshore, and logistics. In terms of port operation, SNP is a feeder port, in which they receive smaller vessels, due to the somewhat shallow depth of the river, and then can export as well to intra-Asia countries. They also export goods to farther countries like the United States, but when doing so, must stop at a larger port with larger ships to do so.
There are many unique aspects about Cat Lai Terminal that make it appealing to customers, however these upsides do not come without difficulty. For one, the location is great because Cat Lai is so close to Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta. Not only is Ho Chi Minh City’s economy booming, but the Mekong Delta accounts for large majority of the country’s rice exports, so being close to both of these areas is prime for convenient business at Cat Lai. Additionally, in 2018, SNP accounted for 91.8% of the market share for Ho Chi Minh city, and 50% nationwide, which further illustrates how this company and terminal are able to flourish so close to a booming economy and productive people. Another interesting aspect of Cat Lai and SNP specifically is their integration of Information Technology, or IT. They have integrated two IT applications, called TOPX, and TOPO-VN. The first is a system that is used to monitor activity at the port, and every action can be viewed in real time on the additional app that was created. With this app, customers can check the location of their goods in real time, and view the surroundings of the port in regards to their goods. The second is a system that manages all container-related information, in order to keep everything organized within SNP. I found this interesting because the integration of IT is becoming very popular, and while people are worried that it takes certain jobs away from people and gives them to computers, in this case, the use of automotive operating systems is more efficient and cost effective for the company overall. Additionally, something I found interesting about the integration of IT is that both of the programs have not been implemented for too long, the first being implemented in 2008 and the second in 2015. As such, there is room for growth in IT, and presents an opportunity for SNP to expand in their technicality and technology in order to improve their systems.
While these are both some positive aspects to Cat Lai and SNP, there is some difficulty within this industry, and specifically to SNP. For one, the company is only 30 years old, and thus they are quite young. Even though economically they are clearly doing very well with the market share statistic, the SNP representative stated that since they are still fairly young, some other companies do not know who they are, and thus at times can be difficult to get business. As such, she stated that they hope to continue getting support from the government in order to help their business succeed. Additionally, there are other ports in the area that are nearby that pose a competition as well, and this paired with being a young company make business difficult at times. An interesting question that was brought up during our discussion was how does being state-owned affect business since many of the competitors are private. While I thought this would have a great effect, the representative stated that it does not really matter who the owner is, but how well the job is done. I found this interesting because I thought it accurately illustrated the environment within SNP, and how they strive to do their jobs well for the betterment of their customers as well as the Vietnamese economy in general.
After our presentation and discussion with the representative, we went on a tour of Cat Lai, and were able to see some huge cranes and shipping containers. During the tour we went to the control tower, which was definitely the coolest part. In the control tower, they had a bunch of windows and computers that tracked all of the information necessary for the shipping containers and customers. To see everything in one place was really cool, and it was fun to see the inner workings of this aspect of the company and see how they manage all of the imports and exports from Cat Lai.
Later in the day, we went to the Reunification Palace. Visiting the palace was very interesting, and the palace itself is very beautiful. In this palace, North Vietnamese tanks rolled through the gates, and the agreement was made between the North and the South to reunify the country. Today, the palace symbolizes the peace that the country enjoys, and is still maintained as an elaborate building inside.
While this building served an important purpose to end the Vietnam War, before the war, it was where the president of Vietnam and his wife lived, and only after the war was turned into a museum. As such, there were many beautiful rooms inside, ranging from bedrooms, to a large kitchen, to bunkers in the basement. Visiting the bunkers was very interesting, because as we kept going down, the walls were thicker, and were able to withstand many bombs. On the roof of the palace is a helicopter pad, and over the helicopter pad is a beautiful view of Ho Chi Minh City. Visiting the palace was amazing for many reasons, not only because at one point people actually lived in such an ornate place, but because in one of the meeting rooms the Vietnam War was actually ended. It is very surreal to think about the rooms I was looking into, and think about who was sitting at each table, what vital decision being made. In turn, I really appreciated our visit to the palace, and seeing the peace that Vietnam currently has and the lives of people are that are improving overall, it makes me appreciate the agreements made within this building, as I get to interact with such an important part of both the United States’ and Vietnam’s histories.
Today was another really awesome day, and I cannot wait to visit the Mekong Delta tomorrow!