US Seeks Support From Japan And South Korea To Reopen Redundant Shipyards

The US is courting its Asian allies, South Korea and Japan, to help it restart the redundant shipyards to match China’s bolstering shipbuilding capability. The US approach emphasizes tapping Asian funding, engineering capabilities, and proven shipbuilding experience to support its shipbuilding capacity, per Nikkeia Asia. Carlos Del Toro, the US Navy’s Secretary, made pitches to take part in initiatives to resurrect shuttered US shipyards during visits to two shipyards based in South Korea and a Japanese one over the past week.

Rahm Emanuel, the US Ambassador to Japan, stated that Del Toro’s visit primarily served two main goals: to examine repairs made to the USNS Big Horn, a fleet replenishment oiler, and to assess whether the Japanese firm would be keen on making investments in a closed shipyard.

Emanuel stated that there is a closed plant located in Philadelphia. There is a closed Navy shipyard located in Long Beach. There are some others as well, and they wish to see if Mitsubishi or other Japanese firms would be keen on investing in and reopening one of the shipyards and being a part of building Navy, commercial, and Coast Guard vessels.

Shipyard
Representation Image

Emanuel hinted in January 2024 that for US Navy war vessels to be in Asian waters and prepared for future confrontations, the US and Japan are attempting to conclude to empower Japan’s shipyards to carry out overhauls and routine maintenance. Over the past four decades, China has built an outstanding commercial shipbuilding industry, declared Del Toro during a discussion. He added that they had lost that ability from the 1980s when they had left it open to market forces.

The move has come through when there’s widespread concern in the US regarding lowered capacity brought about by delays and cost overruns for major military programs, including the building of submarines and aircraft carriers. Reports from May last year showed that the US Navy had been exploring private shipyards in Japan to repair, maintain, and refurbish warships to minimize local servicing backlogs. At that time, it was also speculated that the effort could help expand and include South Korea, the Philippines, and Singapore.

Following his visit to Mitsubishi, Emanuel mentioned that he wanted to use private shipyards in Japan to maintain, refurbish, and repair American war vessels. The vessels stationed in Japan would be included initially, but later, vessels in the US ports would be included. Del Toro said that it keeps vessels in the theatre so that time is not lost on the travel to and from the US regarding repair activities. The repairs in Japan would relieve pressure on the US shipyards, so they are building new vessels.

Besides Japan, South Korea is being considered for such a collaboration. Del Toro also travelled to the southernmost tip of the Korean Peninsula. He toured the shipyards of Hanwha Ocean on Geoje Island and Hyundai Heavy Industries, based in Ulsan, the world’s largest shipyard.

Del Toro also has commented that several former shipyards around the (US) are dormant and intact. These are also ripe for redevelopment as dual-use construction facilities for Aegis destroyers and some high-value-chain commercial vessels, like ammonia gas carriers, that will enable the worldwide transition from fossil fuel to green energy sources such as hydrogen.

Investments in dual-use shipyards based in the US will likely create good-paying, blue-collar, and new-collar American employment opportunities, building advanced vessels that will safeguard and power tomorrow’s economy. America has witnessed a significant dip in shipbuilding capacity. Nine of 13 public naval shipyards the US had formerly are now closed. These closed shipyards are maritime air stations, national parks, or container terminals. However, bringing some for ship repairs or construction work is possible.

The urgency of resuscitating these redundant shipyards comes from the threat posed by the Chinese shipbuilding industry, which is building naval vessels that can be used to show dominance in far seas and be deployed against America and its Indo-Pacific allies in case of conflicts.

China’s Shipbuilding Capacity Spurs Urgent US Action

The largest Navy in the world, the People’s Liberation Army-Navy (PLA-N) of China, has long been expanding dramatically, surpassing the US in its shipbuilding capacity. A leaked US Navy Intelligence report indicated that shipyards in China can build ships 232 times faster than the US. China’s shipyards can make more than 23.2 million tons, whereas the US can create fewer than 100,000 tons.

The slide reflected the battle force composition of the two country’s navies against one another, which included “combatant ships, mine warfare vessels, submarines, major amphibious vessels, and extensive combat support auxiliary vessels. The Chinese fleet now boasts more warships than the US did somewhere between 2015 and 2020, and the critical point of difference between these two navies is widening rapidly.

According to the Pentagon’s latest annual report to Congress about the Chinese military and its security developments, the Chinese Navy has about 350 vessels, while the US Navy has 293 warships. The gap of 60 hulls between the navies is likely to evolve every five years until 2035 when China will boast about 475 naval vessels compared to the 305-317 warships the US has. Notably, China has successfully inducted almost 150 warships in the last decade.

China’s Navy comprises marine militia, coast guard forces, and battleships. Even by cautious estimates, the number of vessels in the maritime fleets exceeds 700, making them the world’s most fabulous. The US Congressional Budget Office mentioned in a report published in November 2022 that the American fleet is estimated to shrink as its older ships are decommissioned.

The US Navy’s leadership has also strongly advocated for a fleet comprising 380 ships soon. But, the rate of building doesn’t look highly promising. The most significant backlog lies with nuclear-powered submarines, one of the areas where the US is recognized to benefit over the People’s Liberation Army Navy. It’s also believed that by bringing more human and financial resources from Asia, the US can somewhat bridge the gap with the Chinese shipbuilding prowess and spur vessel construction needed for essential force projection.

Reference: Eurasian Times

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Marine Insight News Network is a premier source for up-to-date, comprehensive, and insightful coverage of the maritime industry. Dedicated to offering the latest news, trends, and analyses in shipping, marine technology, regulations, and global maritime affairs, Marine Insight News Network prides itself on delivering accurate, engaging, and relevant information.

About Author

Marine Insight News Network is a premier source for up-to-date, comprehensive, and insightful coverage of the maritime industry. Dedicated to offering the latest news, trends, and analyses in shipping, marine technology, regulations, and global maritime affairs, Marine Insight News Network prides itself on delivering accurate, engaging, and relevant information.

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