Freshly caught freight.
Transport Magazine

Freshly caught freight.

Thanks to Udompattana Samutsakhon, fish from Thailand reaches locations around the world.

Fish from Thailand is in demand the world over – both in neighbouring Laos and in Europe. The family firm Udompattana Samutsakhon near Bangkok guarantees fresh supplies.

The morning sun is so bright that you can only just make out the outline of the temple with the golden Buddha over on the far shore of the Tha Chin River; like the cutter that is just stopping at the quay wall. Then things move quickly: the wooden boat is moored, a man with a camouflage hat puts a metal frame onto the railing that leads down to the concrete floor, and the first plastic basket whooshes down the slide. In it is fresh fish from the Gulf of Thailand, which this river flows into a few kilometres south of here.

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“Fishing has been one of the main sources of income for generations here,” says Thongchai Suwanchai. “Here” is the Thai province of Samut Sakhon near Bangkok. Less than half an hour later, seven cutters have unloaded their night’s catch at the Samut Sakhon Fish Market.

Underneath the protection of a corrugated iron roof the fish is sorted into different coloured baskets. Pick‑up trucks and vans race up to transport some of the catch to local restaurants or markets. A large part is destined for abroad, however – Thailand is one of the largest fish and seafood exporting nations. That is why some of the first stopping points for the catch are the processing factories in the provincial capital.

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Trained hands: a part of what is sorted here is destined for markets and restaurants, but the greater part will be processed by the numerous companies in the fishing stronghold of Samut Sakhon.

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Full baskets: on the Samut Sakhon Fish Market, around 45 kilometres south‑west of Bangkok, in the small hours of the morning the night’s catch is brought in.

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Full baskets: on the Samut Sakhon Fish Market, around 45 kilometres south‑west of Bangkok, in the small hours of the morning the night’s catch is brought in.

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Full baskets: on the Samut Sakhon Fish Market, around 45 kilometres south‑west of Bangkok, in the small hours of the morning the night’s catch is brought in.

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“Fishing has been one of the main sources of income in our province for generations.”

Thongchai “Top” Suwanchai, Managing Director of Udompattana Samutsakhon
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For Thongchai Suwanchai too – nicknamed “Top” – fishing is very important. Often the company manager intervenes in the supply chain after the processing plant have frozen or canned the produce, from tuna to sea bass. Then “Top” manages the further dispatch of the fish, mostly serving the exporters: in his function as the Managing Director of Udompattana Samutsakhon, the largest transporter in the province with a fleet of 120 trucks.

“Many of the deliveries go to Bangkok harbour with refrigerated containers,” explains Top. Or to Laem Chabang, Thailand’s largest port further south‑east on the Gulf of Thailand. “The produce is exported from the two cities to the Middle East, Europe or the USA.” Also there are customers in neighbouring Laos. The truck drivers reach its capital, Vientiane, after driving 700 kilometres northwards.

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“The name Mercedes‑Benz has a “wow” effect in Thailand.”

Thongchai “Top” Suwanchai
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Refrigerated containers: the eight Actros and the other trucks belonging to Udompattana Samutsakhon constantly transport the cargo to the ports of Bangkok and Laem Chabang – destined for places all over the world.

After it was founded in 1991, Udompattana Samutsakhon has been constantly changing. One part of its name, “pattana”, can roughly be translated as “development”, which is company policy. One crucial decision was to buy eight Actros: “We decided to buy the vehicles because of their reliability, good performance and their low fuel consumption. They really are proving their worth,” says Top. The trucks have the configuration 3344 with two driven axles, which is predominant in Thailand. They are used for transfers to the ports and long‑distance.

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Proud truckers: the company’s drivers very quickly accepted the Actros.

The trucks are image messengers: “The name Mercedes‑Benz is connected with a wow effect in Thailand,” says the contractor, whose drivers transport fish and other frozen food, and also drinks, cement and steel. “The drivers are particularly proud of the trucks.”

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Udompattana has two other sources of income. Both of them are carried out in a warehouse complex next to the freight company’s premises. Top pushes open the heavy safety door. At temperatures just above zero, forklifts drive back and forth with pallets and crates full of tuna to the loading docks, and commands are given into walkie‑talkies.

“We provide extensive logistics services for the business.” In addition to turning over fish, produce is also frozen and stored. Source of income number three can be observed under a free‑standing roof. There, staff salt jellyfish from the waters off southern Thailand and neighbouring Myanmar, mainly for export to Japan and China.

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Additional sources of income: besides transport, Udompattana Samutsakhon provides logistics services such as freezing and storing fish.

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Thongchai “Top” Suwanchai (l.) and Amornrat Wuthichat, Managers of Udompattana Samutsakhon.

Udompattana is a family‑owned business and the “udom” part of the name refers to Top’s grandfather. In fact his uncle founded the company and he is still a member of the board. Top’s cousin rounds off the board; at least on those days when she is not working in her profession as a dentist – real multitasking! That is something Top masters too. “In a company like ours you just have to deal with all sorts of different things.” Says he, and shortly afterwards he jumps on his moped. A meeting with the drivers is scheduled.

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The biggest fleet in the province is in constant use.

Photos: Alexander Tempel