Nurturing shipping and logistics experts for Hong Kong

by Wendy Shair

Wong Hon-shu
programme director
Master of Science in International Shipping and Transport Logistics
Graduate School of Business
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Photo: Dickie Tam
Business school provides top academic support to burgeoning industry

Hong Kong is a world-renowned transhipment hub, with a highly developed logistics sector that relies on highly skilled people to ensure efficiency and growth.

To address the need for new talent, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) has been offering a specialised programme in international shipping and transport logistics leading to the award of a master of science degree. It provides professionals with a platform to increase their knowledge of shipping, transport and logistics. The subjects covered include marine insurance, chartering strategy, liner management, admiralty law, airport and terminal management, Chinese maritime and port law.

"We offer our students the opportunity to increase their contribution to this fast-growing industry. They also get the chance to build a business network, particularly among people in senior management positions, and to enhance their chances for promotion in the workplace," notes Wong Hon-shu, programme director, Master of Science in International Shipping and Transport Logistics, Graduate School of Business, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

This multi-disciplinary programme is one of a kind in Hong Kong. "Our university has a long history of offering academic expertise on shipping and logistics. We therefore have the advantage of a strong team of industry insiders to teach our programmes," Dr Wong remarks.

International focus

To give students an international perspective to the pillar industry, Dr Wong points out that the course material is not limited to Hong Kong, but also covers the rapidly developing mainland logistics and maritime sectors, as well as its international trading ports. "It's essential for people in the shipping sector these days to have a global outlook," he stresses.

Applicants to the programme undergo stringent screening and should have an honours bachelor's degree in international shipping or relevant disciplines. Those who have not worked in the field before are required to have at least two years' work experience elsewhere.

"We expect candidates to have good communication skills and outgoing personalities and to be good team players. They must have an understanding of maritime economics, have good presentation skills and be confident," Dr Wong says, adding that short-listed applicants will be invited to attend one-on-one interviews.

Hong Kong has a free shipping and logistics business sector, favouring dynamic trade activity, and many documentation activities still take place in the city, which has an advantage in terms of industry diversity and academic professionalism. "Hong Kong students have to work hard to compete with strong candidates from mainland China who are catching up fast," he cautions.

Scholarship support

Every year, about 55 students are admitted to the programme, which can be completed in either part-time or full-time modes. Up to 12 full-time MSc places in the 2011/12 academic year will go to recipients of Hong Kong Maritime Scholarships, sponsored by the Hong Kong government, with an aim to grow the talent pool in Hong Kong's maritime industry.

"We receive applications for the scholarships from around the world and successful candidates get the chance to work in Hong Kong for at least a year after being awarded the master's qualification," says Dr Wong. "In order to facilitate global exchange within this group of professionals, we encourage an international intake. The scholarships provide an excellent opportunity for students to gain work experience in Hong Kong. This is a particularly attractive prospect to high-calibre students from the mainland."

Past scholarship recipient and MSc graduate Bryan Chen believes that the programme has helped to enhance his skills and essential shipping-industry knowledge. "I'm sure the fact that I got to know so many people in the field will stand me in good stead in my career. Some of my classmates were senior company managers and I learnt a great deal from them," Mr Chen says.

He emphasises that the scholarship was of great importance to him, since it has allowed him to concentrate on his studies. "This meant that I had more opportunity for additional academic reading to aid my learning," he remarks.

The programme focuses on both academic and practical skills, notes Mr Chen, who received a job offer before he even graduated from the programme. "We had access to lots of journals and research papers, which were not only good for business purposes, but also helped me to better understand the industry," he adds. "I also learnt a lot through class discussions, group projects and other activities, including site visits."

Bon voyage

  • Specialised programme enhances students' shipping, transport and logistics knowledge
  • Scholarships help to expand talent pool in Hong Kong's maritime industry
  • An understanding of maritime economics and good interpersonal skills expected of students

Taken from Career Times 25 February 2011, A13

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