Secretary of the Navy Invites Korea's Shipbuilders to Come to America

Carlos Del Toro
Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro visits a drydock at Hanwha Ocean, formerly DSME (Courtesy Hanwha Ocean)

Published Feb 29, 2024 11:59 PM by The Maritime Executive

Just weeks after sharply criticizing American defense contractors, Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Tor visited South Korea's mega-shipyards to deliver a message: come to the United States. 

South Korea is one of America's closest allies, and it also happens to be the world's second-largest shipbuilding nation. Its Big Three yards have made their names by churning out complex LNG carriers, and two of them - HD Hyundai and Hanwha Ocean (formerly DSME) - have extensive experience in defense shipbuilding, too. Their latest surface combatant class uses the same Aegis combat system found on the U.S. Navy's own destroyers, and can carry about 30 percent more missiles.

"As I saw firsthand during my shipyard visits in Korea this week, Hanwha and Hyundai set the global industry standard," said Del Toro in a statement. "I could not be more excited at the prospect of these companies bringing their expertise, their technology, and their cutting-edge best practices to American shores.  As world class leaders in the global shipbuilding business, they are poised to energize the U.S. shipbuilding marketplace with fresh competition, renowned innovation and unrivaled industrial capacity."

Del Toro suggested that Korean investors could reactivate or upgrade "numerous former shipyard sites around the country which are largely intact and dormant." Not only would this give the Navy more contractors to choose from, he said - these new yards might even be able to attract commercial newbuild contracts. 

"Investment in dual-use shipyards in the United States will create good paying, blue collar and new-collar American jobs building the advanced ships that will protect and power the economy of tomorrow," he said. 

Hanwha CEO Dong Kwan Kim and HD Hyundai CEO Kisun Chung will both be visiting the Pentagon in the coming weeks for follow-up talks, Del Toro added. 

His comments contrasted sharply with an address he delivered at the annual West defense conference in San Diego earlier this month. In a prepared speech, he admonished the crowd of American defense executives to stop blaming COVID for supply chain shortages, do what is needed to recruit and retain their own workforces, and deliver performance matching their profitability. 

"I am committed to providing you in industry clear requirements, robust pipelines for the future, and strong stable investments. However, I need you to do your part as well to provide a proper return on investment for the American taxpayer," Del Toro admonished the crowd of defense executives. "I need you to deliver platforms and capabilities on time and on budget without excuses."