Đỗ Thái Bình, the Vice Chairman of the Việt Nam Shipbuilding Association, spoke with Hải Quan (Customs) Newspaper about the growth potential of Viet Nam’s shipbuilding industry.
Việt Nam’s shipbuilding industry receives attention from many countries and large shipbuilding corporations. Do you know why?
The maritime world and global maritime groups watch Việt Nam for two reasons. First, Việt Nam is a potential market for maritime equipment, including ships, with nearly 100 million potential buyers. Second, Việt Nam specialises in shipbuilding and production, plus has rich human resources and a cheap and studious labour force.
Are there many growth opportunities for Việt Nam’s shipbuilding market, both now and in the near future?
Yes. Shipbuilding is a very important Vietnamese industry. Most countries in the world needs ships to enhance their maritime strength and for national protection and defense.
Shipbuilding requires large financial investments, which creates opportunities for the State to promote national protection, enhance maritime defenses, and create a strong fleet of ships for transportation of people and goods.
What about Việt Nam’s wish to become a powerful country in terms of shipbuilding?
Việt Nam used to aim to become a shipbuilding power, like Japan, the Republic of Korea, and China. But we failed. We failed because the shipbuilding industry has specific features and because supply now exceeds demand. Plus, the ups and downs of the shipbuilding industry mirror those of the world economy.
For example, Việt Nam landed some shipbuilding contracts in 2002, within the context of huge demand for shipbuilding at that time. But then we lost the opportunity to land more such contracts, due to the effects of the worldwide economic crisis on the global shipbuilding industry.
So it is not easy to enter the global shipbuilding market. It requires huge investments, plus administrative changes, to create a brand name suitable for entry into the global market -- because big corporations will not trust countries and factories without prestige or a brand name to build ships for them.
What kinds of ships can Việt Nam build, so as to demonstrate mastery of ship design, technology and manufacturing?
We should not expect to build a complete ship. Shipbuilding is really an industry of assembly, by nature. The world already assigns different duties to different countries. Some countries are well known for maritime equipment. Other countries are famous for electronic devices.
Countries investe in shipbuilding to develop associated auxiliary industries. Ten years ago, the State invested in the Viet Nam Shipbuilding Industry Group (Vinashin) to build ships with a capacity of 57,000-100,000 tonnes. This allowed Vinashin to establish auxiliary factories in the industries of paints and electric equipment, with the aim of developing these supporting industries.
Manufacturing small ships is not easier than manufacturing big ones. Building any ship starts with design. That is why Việt Nam should pay the most attention to two things: design and administration.
But design and administration are matters relating to humans.
This point was demonstrated when Vinashin built a 57,000-tonne ship two years behind schedule. Foreign partners noted the extremely slow rate of progress. Time is money. And time is managed by humans and by good administrative practices. Vinashin had money. But it was not well prepared to fulfill the terms of the contract, in terms of its labour force. So it is important to train employees well.
What do you think is needed to prepare to help the ship building industry develop sustainably?
We need clear shipbuilding information: How many tourist ships will be needed? How many river ships? How many seafaring ships? What kinds of ships do we need to build?
It is essential to classify different kinds of ships first. And then the State needs to invest in infrastructure needed by the shipbuilding industry.
Shipbuilding needs a clear vision. Shipbuilding is of prime importance for every maritime country. So it is not the sole duty of the shipbuilding industry. We need a collective plan in which all related sectors network closely with each other. — VNS