news Published on August 10, 2022

Roundtable about Port Development and Logistics during the visit of Mayor of Rotterdam Ahmed Aboutaleb

The second roundtable during the visit of Mayor of Rotterdam Ahmed Aboutaleb was about port development and logistics. The session took place on the afternoon of 28 July, at the Caravelle Hotel in Ho Chi Minh City. Besides the delegation of the City of Rotterdam, high-level public-sector officials from Vietnam and The Netherlands, as well as private sector decision-makers joined the session. The Mayor of Rotterdam was accompanied by a delegation of the City of Rotterdam and Rotterdam businesses.

Background of the roundtable

Around 60% of Vietnamese exports destined for European markets are entering via the Port of Rotterdam. This is not only due to its central location within the European market, but also because of an excellent business and fiscal environment, great connectivity and world-class value-added logistics for all industry sectors.

The Netherlands is the second largest EU-trade partner of Vietnam and the largest EU Foreign Direct Investor. In 2021 the bilateral trade mounted 8,373 billion USD, an increase of 9,4% compared to 2020. A remarkable figure considering we were in the middle of a global pandemic. The EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement is an important driving force behind the growing trade between Vietnam and the EU. 

The growing trade is putting more pressure on already constrained supply lines in Vietnam. Port congestion, challenges in connectivity and digitalization, lack of qualified staff, training facilities, are serious threats for the economic growth of Vietnam, not only in relation to trade with Europe, but globally. 

The Netherlands, its ports, companies and experts can offer solutions. On the visit of the Mayor of Rotterdam, Mr. Ahmed Aboutaleb, to Ho Chi Minh City, the session brought key stakeholders from companies, government and port authorities together to discuss solutions and possible cooperation. Dutch companies already present in Vietnam, like Cofano, Vopak, Tan Cang – STC, Royal Haskoning DHV, Boskalis were present in the session, together with the Port of Rotterdam.

The session was moderated by the Consul General in Ho Chi Minh City (CG) and the Deputy Head of Mission Embassy in Hanoi (D-AMB). 

Report of the event 

During his opening remarks, Mayor Aboutaleb said that the port of Rotterdam is the largest in the western hemisphere, and perceived as most excellent port in the world. Providing services and vital goods for the third economy in the world, Europe. “The Port of Rotterdam has the deepest water in The North Sea, for the largest vessels, up to 33 meters deep.”

“We are now in the fourth Industrial Revolution, that we call Internet of Things. The Internet of Things gives us the obligation to not only think about how we can transport today and tomorrow, but also how can we reach the dot on my horizon that we see in 2030 and 2040.” 

Frank Landheer, Country Director of Cofano Asia, and participant of the roundtable, summarized the words of Mayor Aboutaleb in his retrospective Linkedin-post: “What if 3D printing will diminish the amount of cargo transported between Asia and Europe? How will this affect the port operations of Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) and Rotterdam? During the round table on port development and logistics, mayor Aboutaleb of Gemeente Rotterdam raised this thought-provoking question. Will cargo transport stay economically viable and will ports keep their value for their cities?”

A fascinating future, phasing ahead the future of ports, distribution and production. All these ports would like to fulfill a hub function. Mayor Aboutaleb posed a question: is that desire a real perception for all ports? The consequences will be major if we do not think about 30, 40 or 50 years from now.  

The other speakers at the roundtable event were:

Nguyen Hai Nam – General Director of Maritime Administration of HCMC

Review Mr Nam’s presentation here. 

Mr Nam elaborated on the port situation and development plans in Ho Chi Minh City, trade volumes, advantages of Vietnam as a seaport investment place as well as the central vision for seaport planning. 

Mr. Bui Van Quy – Vice Executive President of Saigon Newport Corporation 

 Review Mr Quy’s presentation here. 

Mr Quy’s energetic presentation was all about Saigon Newport, a state-owned enterprise that was founded in 1989. The vision of Saigon Newport is to become a leading economic - defense corporation in the field of marine economy and logistics services. Their 3 main pillars are port operation, logistic services and shipping & sea services. Mr Quy’s presentation contained an overview of all the terminals that are operated by Saigon New Port: Saigon Newport has 89% market share in the Ho Chi Minh City Area. 

Through the above sharing, it was highlighted that both port authority and port operators in HCMC are also facing different challenges in meeting growing trade volumes including the lack of connectivity among the seaports facilities, lack of railway connection, limited possibility of expansion of warehousing and loading/unloading equipment as well as insufficient investment in water transport, etc…

Carlos Zepeda, Senior Maritime Economist at Port of Rotterdam

Rotterdam is Europe's major port. It is especially important to the transport and logistics sectors, and the petrochemical and energy industries. There is little room for companies to expand in the existing port and industrial areas, in the years ahead. Rotterdam will be unable to compete with other ports – in Europe and beyond – without additional room to expand.

Therefore, the Dutch government decided to strengthen the Rotterdam hub port by constructing a new port area (Maasvlakte 2). At the same time, the livability of the Rhine Estuary region has to be improved. That is the two-fold aim of the Rotterdam Main port Development Project.

The development and use of Maasvlakte 2 has an adverse impact on the sea and nature. Part of the surrounding dune area will also be lost. Under the Natuurbeschermingswet 1998 (Nature Protection Act) the government is obliged to provide compensation for such damage.

On the other hand, Rotterdam city could also share with HCMC on the port collection fee structure that HCMC is keen to know. 

Q&A Session 

After the presentations, there was a Q&A session and open discussion about the presentations. An active mayor Aboutaleb had a lively and fruitful discussions with Vietnamese policy makers and, Dutch, entrepreneurs: e.g. Frank Landheer shared his thought and experience about digitization in the port and logistics sector in the South of Vietnam. He also explained how Cofano supports local companies to improve communication and how he believed his RiverGate platform would make the river transport processes in Ho Chi Minh City and Cai Mep area the smoothest in the world.