INTERVIEW with Mr. Jan Segers – Noatum Logistics Vietnam

INTERVIEW with Mr. Jan Segers – Noatum Logistics Vietnam

September 16, 2020

Mr Jan Segers and his team of Noatum Logistics Vietnam

Interview with Mr. Jan Segers, General Manager, Noatum Logistics Vietnam

  1. Kindly tell us something about your work profile / business including yourself.

Noatum Logistics Vietnam (formerly MIQ Logistics Vietnam) was created in 2019, after the joint venture between Noatum logistics Group (HQ in Spain) and MIQ Logistics.  MIQ Logistics was already on the Vietnamese logistics market since 2004.

Noatum Logistics is now represented in 95 locations in 25 countries.  We are within the top 50 global forwarders.  Our global volumes allow us to offer very competitive rates for both air- and sea-shipments.  Other important activities the Noatum Logistics Group can offer are logistics consulting, ISC-PVPO, ecommerce solutions, …

Noatum Logistics Vietnam is a logistics provider, mainly handling nominated cargo / shipments to the USA, Europe including Turkey, and Intra-Asia.  We are looking for and developing more locally decided cargo / business.  Noatum Logistics Vietnam also handles reefer shipments (important for the export of frozen seafood ex Vietnam), customs brokerage and inland trucking if required.  We are also looking for warehousing solutions if required by the customer.

I am the General Manager in Vietnam, running the office in Ho Chi Minh and trying to expand the business as mentioned before.  We are planning to open an extra branch in North Vietnam (Hanoi or Haiphong) in 2021. I have been in the Logistics business since 1984.      

2. When did you arrive in Vietnam and what made you / your company decide to invest in this country? Any culture shock related to the work-environment?

My first visit to Vietnam was in 2004, and I travelled 3 – 6 times per year between my home-country, Belgium, and Vietnam for the coming years.  Just note that it was just business-visits– the discovery of Vietnam, its beauty and touristic places came later.

In 2013, I moved to Vietnam permanently and it is my aim to stay here forever.  In the beginning, I was still working as a representative in Asia for my Belgian employer. Later I worked for Vietnamese and International logistics companies and, since June 2019, for Noatum Logistics Vietnam.

Why I moved : Because I knew Vietnam and its culture and had some Belgian friends here, it was easier to say ‘Goodbye Belgium’ and go to Vietnam.  I could have moved to Costa Rica, but I did not know anyone over there.  In fact, I moved for the difference in general climate between Belgium (Europe) and Vietnam. In addition to the weather, I found the social and economic climates to be appealing.  

Culture shock ? Just the eating with chop sticks compared with the Western style (fork and knife), some food (especially in North Vietnam).  For the rest, foreigners have to adapt to the local habits, so I do.

Our company (in the early days as MIQ) decided to invest in Vietnam as the nominated cargo ex Vietnam was increasing and our end-customers were sourcing more and more from Vietnam.

3. What’s happened since? How has your professional career or your company’s career developed since then?

Vietnam is still growing, and the GDP is expected to show a positive growth in 2020 despite the COVID-19 crisis.  Even during the COVID-19 crisis, almost every company kept on producing and exporting.     As mentioned before, we are expanding and hope to open an extra branch in 2021.

–     There are similarities between the current logistics market in Vietnam with the European market 25 – 30 years ago in topics like Customs clearance, Infrastructure, transport between neighboring countries… so I get to use my previous experience.

4. As far as the logistics industry as it stands today, what do Noatum Logistics bring to the table? What do you think are the biggest challenges in this industry in the future?

Noatum Logistics Vietnam is currently mainly operating for nominated cargo.  These are shipments that are decided overseas. Our biggest challenge here, is to keep on giving the good service to both shippers and receivers (consignees) and to work out solutions together.

Vietnam is unfortunately still a so called ‘FOB-Market’ regarding exports, where the suppliers / shippers just deliver their cargo to the ports and do not have any notice where its cargo is going to.  It will be a challenge to move those shippers towards C&F, so they can control where and how fast their cargo is going.  It is the same for imports – but then in the opposite way.

5. How do you think Vietnam’s market has changed during the years?

During the years, I have also seen that the quality of work the Vietnamese are producing is improving enormously.  This, combined with the fact that the cost of living as well as salaries are lower in Vietnam than other regions like Europe and the USA, will be beneficial in the future for Vietnam and Vietnam could become the China.

With some forwarders as agents I have worked with in the past, we often had to put them back on track.  Compare it with a big stone blocking the rails:  Some will run over the stone and leave the track, go in another direction.  Others will remove the big stone and keep on following the track.

Since my first voyage to Vietnam, a lot has changed : just look at the enormous growth of real estate and building of apartment blocks. Vietnam has become more and more developed.

6. How do you think EVFTA will benefit EU and Vietnam companies after this pandemic? Please tell us a little about the future plans of your company in HCMC.

The main problem is that few companies in Europe and in Vietnam were aware of the EVTFA (and maybe still are not).  Vietnam is now promoting the EVFTA and the opportunities in Europe frequently via television.  For helping the European companies in Vietnam, supporting the European trade towards Vietnam or the Vietnamese trade towards Europe, we have to find our own ways.

E.g. : We are looking (in vain) and have asked for the new import-duties in Vietnam after the implementation on 01/08/2020.  It would give us a great benefit as we can promote Vietnam and European exports to Vietnam.  It would also help us to promote the trade from Vietnam to Europe.

As mentioned before, our plans are very clear and simple :  We are currently only based in HCMC and have doubled the amount of staff in 1 year time thanks to the extra workload.  We are looking to  open an office in the North and we can also look to the neighboring countries Cambodia and / or Laos as Noatum has no office there.

7. Lastly, please tell us an unforgettable experience that you had during all these years in Vietnam?

I will always remember the following :

1 : The first times I spent in Vietnam, it was common to see 3 -4 adults on the same motorbike.  Today each of them have their own motorbike, so the traffic has become more chaotic than in the past.

2 : If you cross the street, just keep on walking (no running, no going back).  The traffic will always avoid you and pass.

3 : When the decision was made that everybody had to wear a helmet (the law was made / published a few days before it went into effect), most of the people did not have a helmet.  So, 100 mtrs before the place where police were controlling, a person was renting helmets, which had to be returned 100 mtrs after the police control. 

Many thanks to Mr. Jan for sharing his experience with us.

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