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Navy League 2024: HII CEO notes steps taken to accommodate shipbuilding demand

HII had already started its workforce for more work at its shipyards, including its facility at Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia. (Janes/Michael Fabey)

Shipbuilders for US Navy (USN) programmes had braced for a growing work demand signal before the onslaught of the Covid-19 pandemic, but the pandemic's impacts exacerbated the challenges of that growing manufacturing need, according to Chris Kastner, HII president and CEO.

Shipbuilders, suppliers, and the USN are investing – but still struggling – to meet that work demand in an industry landscape that has been reshaped by Covid, Kastner noted this during a roundtable media discussion on 4 April in advance of the Navy League Sea-Air-Space 2024 global maritime exposition, starting on 8 April in National Harbor, Maryland.

β€œThere's really unprecedented demand in shipbuilding that's going on right now that we saw coming,” Kastner said.

β€œYou have that backdrop of significant demand coupled with the effects of Covid on the economic environment, both manufacturing labour, shipbuilding labour, and the supply chain.”

He added, β€œWe were already looking a challenge in the manufacturing workforce, and we were going to have to ramp up labour to meet the demand. Covid accelerated that. What we didn't expect is the inflation that happened. And it's eliminated the spread between what we pay an entry-level shipbuilder and what general services or retail pays someone.”

However, he noted, β€œWe've made investments. We've spent USD450 million training the workforce from 2020.”

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