Old “Foch” aircraft carrier flowed in Atlantic Ocean, off coast of Brazil

Environmental organizations denounce an “environmental disaster” because the ship was still charged with asbestos and many toxic products.

by Benoît Hopquin

Pollution alerts launched in recent days by environmental defense associations have done nothing: the Brazilian navy announced, Friday, January 3 at the end of the afternoon, having flowed the Aircraft Sao Paulo, ex-Foch, 350 kilometers off its coast, 5,000 meters deep, in the Atlantic Ocean. “Planned and controlled shipwreck,” said the navy in its press release, which scuttled the hull with explosive loads. “An environmental disaster,” says Jacky Bonnemains, of the French Association Robin des Bois, in unison with many other associations.

was thus sent by the bottom a ship still charged with asbestos and other toxic products – Cadmium, lead, Mercury and PCB – in proportions that make debate. Sabording is a convenient and inexpensive way to get rid of this 24,000 -ton carcass, which has been the object for months of a legal, diplomatic and environmental imbroglio. Sad end for those who were one of the flagships of the French navy for forty years, with his twin, his sister-ship, the Clemenceau.

“Dangerous waste”

Brazil had bought the Foch from France in 2000, after an asbestos removal and depollution, expensive but incomplete. Renamed Sao Paulo, he had hardly been useful to his buyer, multiplying breakdowns and accidents. In 2021, he was sold for a derisory sum to Sök Denizcilik, a Turkish company that hoped to take advantage of the resale of his metal. The buyer planned to dismantle him in Aliaga, near Izmir, on an approved site according to European standards. On August 4, 2022, the ex-Foch therefore left, with regard to a last trip, the port of Rio de Janeiro, dragged at the speed of 4 knots by the tug of a Dutch company, he who spun Belle era its 32 knots (60 km/h), pushed by the 126,000 horses of its engines.

While he was approaching the Mediterranean, the Turkish Ministry of the Environment withdrew his authorization, under pressure from local associations, asserting the risks for workers and the environment. Several international environmental organizations also considered that the ship was to be classified as “dangerous waste”, under the terms of the Basel Convention. After having made circles in water off Morocco, the ship was towed in the opposite direction and arrived near Suape, in the State of Pernambouc, remaining 25 kilometers from the coast, on the edge of territorial waters. Ibama, the Brazilian environment agency, suspended export authorization and demanded a new expertise to determine the ecological risk. But local justice prohibited entry into the port and dry docking for examination, invoking the threat of pollution. The Turkish company, it demanded the cancellation of the contract, while the Brazilian navy maintained that the responsibility of the ship “fell to whom had bought it”.

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/Media reports cited above.