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Personnel shortage keeps logistics trade backward

Vietnam ranks very low in logistics development among ASEAN members, speakers said at an annual general meeting held last week in HCM City by the Southeast Asian Federation of Forwarders’ Associations.
It needs support from more developed members and international logistic associations, they said.

Together with Laos and Myanmar, Vietnam had the lowest logistics development ranking in the regional grouping, said federation chairman Masli Mulia.

Meanwhile, more developed member nations should provide assistance in keeping with the aim of improving logistics within the bloc, he added.

While Vietnam has paid more attention to and developed its logistics industry over the last 10 to 15 years, other markets including Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia or Indonesia have started several decades earlier, even a hundred years, Mulia said.

The logistics industry in Vietnam was severely hampered by the lack of qualified personnel, which is also the largest stumbling block to its growth, industry insiders said.

“It is incredible that logistics, which contributes greatly to the country’s economic development, is suffering such a serious shortage of personnel and [the problem of] unprofessional skills,” said chairman of Vietnam Freight Forwarders Association Bui Ngoc Loan.

A report from the association said the local labor market met only 40 percent of the requirements of an industry that was growing at 20 to 30 percent a year and contributed 15 to 20 percent to the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP).

About 600 businesses involved in logistics in Vietnam employ 35,000 to 40,000 people, the report said.

Loan said schools and universities were unable to meet demand from the industry for people to work at ports, in forwarding agencies, in shipping and customs services.

Tran Anh Dung, executive director of Vietnam Trading Logistics and Shipping Services (Vinatraco), said he was not satisfied with the professionalism of employees that he hired. His firm had to hold several training courses at work and even send employees to schools for further training, he said.

Dung said local logistics businesses were also facing a high labor turnover, with Vinatraco recording 30 to 60 percent every year. A source from the Saigon Shipping Company said human resources quality and availability were big issue for local businesses. Professional skills were at a premium, he said, adding that the firm was recently “robbed” of its five best employees by rivals who offered better salaries and better working environment.

The industry was growing as it offered opportunities and easy access for small and medium-sized enterprises to set up their business without too many conditions. This boom created more pressure on finding workers from a limited human resource pool supplied by schools or universities that only offer logistics courses for limited periods, said Dung.

Phan Van Quan, deputy general director of Dragon Logistics, said it was difficult to hire workers with the professional as well as foreign language skills needed to work in a setting that involved dealing with international partners.

Vietnamese employees were less professional and were cautious in dealing with special high risk commodities as they had experience only with normal ones, said Quan.

In other countries, forwarders were doing 90 to 95 percent of logistics involved in international trading, but Vietnamese forwarders only did half of this work, said chairman of air forwarding firm Vina Freight Do Xuan Quang. The remaining work was done by the trading companies themselves, he sai

Policy support

Quang, also director of the association’s Training and Human Resource Department, said it needed a further 12,000 workers to support development of the industry that was growing alongside the development of infrastructure at airport terminals, sea ports and customs services.

Chairman Loan said the association would be unable to do its job if the government did not provide support that logistics businesses in other countries received from their governments.

Quang added logistic firms should be recognized legally as non-vessel operators of common carrier instead of forwarding agents to avoid disputes that have arisen because the role of the agent in trading transactions was not clear in Vietnam to date.

Source: VNN/Thanh Nien