Navy Secretary urges investment in U.S. shipbuilding

Secretary of the Navy Del Toro and Hanwha Group Vice Chairman Dong Kwan Kim at the Hanwha Ocean shipyard.
Secretary of the Navy Del Toro and Hanwha Group Vice Chairman Dong Kwan Kim at the Hanwha Ocean shipyard.
Secretary of the Navy Del Toro and Hanwha Group Vice Chairman Dong Kwan Kim at the Hanwha Ocean shipyard.

Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro has met with two top South Korean shipbuilding industry executives in the Republic of Korea (ROK) for talks aimed at attracting Korean investment in “integrated commercial and naval shipbuilding facilities” in the U.S.

Del Toro first visited Seoul, where he met with Hanwha Group Vice Chairman Dong Kwan Kim and HD Hyundai Vice Chairman and CEO Kisun Chung. 

Following a tour of the Hyundai shipyard in Ulsan, he later visited Geoje Island, where Hanwha Ocean CEO Hyek-woong Kwon led a tour of the company’s shipyard.

“In each of those engagements, I brought to the table a simple, yet profound opportunity to invest in America. I was enormously gratified by the strong interest expressed by the leaders of each of these world-class shipbuilders in establishing U.S. subsidiaries and investing in shipyards in the United States,” said Del Toro.

“In addition to our currently active shipyards, there are numerous former shipyard sites around the country which are largely intact and dormant,” he said. 

“These are ripe for redevelopment as dual-use construction facilities for both warships, like AEGIS destroyers, as well as high value chain commercial vessels, such as the ammonia gas carriers that will enable the global transition from fossil fuels to green energy sources like hydrogen.”

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

According to a statement from the Del Toro’s office, “As China continues to aggressively pursue worldwide shipbuilding dominance, Secretary Del Toro expressed his heartfelt appreciation that the Republic of Korea, one of America’s closest allies, continues to hold its own in the international shipbuilding industry. The importance of Korean shipbuilding as an asset to the U.S.-ROK alliance and to the network of global maritime democracies cannot be overstated.”

As part of his call for a new “Maritime Statecraft” in a September 2023 speech to the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Del Toro said that the U.S. maritime industry “is ripe with opportunity to partner with a greater number of shipbuilders here in the U.S. and with our closest allies overseas, including Japan and South Korea.”  

In the same speech, he made public an objective to “attract the most advanced shipbuilders in the world to open U.S.-owned subsidiaries and invest in commercial shipyards here in the U.S., modernizing and expanding our shipbuilding industrial capacity and creating a healthier, more competitive shipbuilding workforce.”

Commenting later on his visit to South Korea, Del Toro said, “As I saw firsthand during my shipyard visits in Korea this week, Hanwha and Hyundai set the global industry standard. 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.”