For the first time, a network has emerged between individuals and organisations in the logistics industry of Vietnam and the UK–a world-leading country in logistics. This cooperation affords the opportunity to further develop the port/maritime economy, free up labour, become more environmentally friendly, educational development and approach advanced logistics technologies. This is an activity within the project 'UK-Vietnam institutional link in digital innovation for sustainable maritime logistics in Vietnam'. The project is the result of a partnership between Liverpool John Moores University, UK (LJMU) with the University of Engineering and Technology, Vietnam National University, Hanoi (VNU), Vietnam Maritime University (VIMARU) and several industry partners, under the Newton Institutional Links programme, delivered by British Council and sponsored by the Newton Fund.
The role of the project in today's maritime logistics
The Newton Institutional Links programme encourages organisations to engage in industry and technology transfer to tackle local development needs and challenges. This aim is clearly emphasised from the initial start and the development of the project.
According to figures from Vietnamnews (November 2013) and The Maritime Executive (January 2014), 90 per cent of Vietnamese exports/imports are delivered by sea and 53 per cent freight by waterway. However, their operations are not effective, satisfying only 20 to 25 per cent of the demand. That challenge requires substantial and specific solutions for each port and logistics organisation in Vietnam. And the project 'UK-Vietnam in digital innovation for sustainable maritime logistics in Vietnam' and the UK–Vietnam Logistics network have been created for this very purpose.
The goal of the project is to coordinate with industry partners and universities in Vietnam to tackle urgent issues in maritime logistics in Vietnam, focusing on the application of technologies, with a view to driving economic development and applying environmentally–friendly technologies/solutions. Dr Nguyen Trung Thanh (LJMU), the project lead, stated "There are 16 member organisations of the UK–Vietnam logistics network, which are cooperating for the first time in various fields to promote the development of logistics in Vietnam. These collaborations would not happen without the project's network."
Efforts to work with the industry to overcome challenges
A number of maritime logistics issues exist in the logistics/port clusters in the north of Vietnam. First, due to geographic conditions, most ports are not located in deep water areas. Therefore, they are able to receive only small and medium-sized vessels. Second, non-standard operating procedures result in low transportation efficiency and negative environmental impacts. Third, a majority of ports in Vietnam are last ports of call, leading to a significant imbalance between exports and imports.
Based on specific difficulties and requirements from each region/industrial partner (ports or port clusters), the project provides the most appropriate and optimal set of products to assist maritime economic development in the best way. With VIP Greenport and Nam Hai Port, the set of products includes an optimal vessel stowing system, a port simulation and an optimal container stacking system. In addition, VIP Port Greenport will also receive a system which can calculate the optimal container load. These products are specifically designed to improve efficiency, free up labour, and reduce environmental impact.
Appreciation from the industry
'Initial test results showed that the project's products are capable of producing better performance than the current system in port.' Mr Nguyen Duc Long, Vice Director of Information Technology Innovation Department
Vietnam Container Shipping Corporation (Viconship) is among the top leading port and logistics groups in Vietnam. Within Vinconship, VIP Green Port is the first port in Hai Phong who has invested inmodern equipment/infrastructure and a standardised operational process. In addition, the port is favourably located at the gateway to Hai Phong.
The collaboration between the project and VIP Green Port has brought mutually beneficial benefits in assessing and improving existing issues of ports’ IT products in practice. This impact not only helps the industry in economic development but also provides opportunities for collaboration and exchange in scientific research between scientists in the UK and Vietnam.
Mr Vu Huy Hoang, Head of Information Technology Department of Nam Hai Port - Gemadept Corporation, stated "I think the project that Dr Thanh is implementing is the direction of the future and the Vietnam seaports perhaps are all very looking forward to following its development."
At present, the project has received several investments and financial commitments. The global corporation AECOM has committed to invest £30,000 to expand the project through a doctoral programme. The Newton Fund, through the Royal Academy of Engineering, has provided further support for the project to expand its application to the field of green logistics and urban transport. The industrial partners in Vietnam have also committed to invest provided the products meet the requirements after the current trial phase.
Bridges to academic partners
The UK–Vietnam Logistics network focuses not only on economic development (through collaboration with the industry) but also on educational development in Vietnam. The network is currently in partnership with Vietnamese universities including the University of Engineering and Technology, Vietnam National University, Hanoi, Vietnam Maritime University, Ho Chi Minh City University of Transport, Le Quy Don University and FPT University. The parties exchange information regularly and run conferences and workshops to update recent advancements in logistics, as well as the achievements of the project.
Associate Professor Nguyen Ha Nam (VNU), the project co-lead, stated, 'In the beginning, we were not much interested in logistics because we thought that our expertise would not be relevant. However, after being deeper involve in the project, our view changed. We are now really aware of being more and more an important part of this industry. With the current trend in seaports, logistics is clearly a driving force for economic development in Vietnam.'
The Newton Institutional Links programme is a part of the Newton Fund, which is a part of the UK’s official development assistance programme. Newton Institutional Links provides grants for the development of research and innovation collaborations between the UK and partner countries including Vietnam. The research facilitated by these grants tackles local development needs and challenges such as extreme weather conditions, access to affordable health care, food and energy security.