Foch, pictured here at right in 1994. At the time it was still part of the French Navy. The ship now travels the world’s oceans carrying toxic waste.
The aircraft carrier Foch was the flagship of the French Navy. The 266 meter long vessel now sails under the Brazilian flag and bears the name São Paulo. A Turkish shipyard has acquired a decommissioned naval vessel, but has been unable to find a port where the ship, loaded with various toxic wastes, is allowed to dock. Environmentalists now fear that Brazil will dump Sao Paulo into the sea outside its territorial waters.
Last week, on Friday, the Brazilian Navy announced that it had towed Sao Paulo in the Atlantic. The ship, full of asbestos, paint and other toxic waste, is now 315 kilometers off the coast of Brazil.
Due to the poor condition of São Paulo and the high risk to the environment, the navy said it is not allowed to enter a Brazilian port or Brazilian waters.
Modernization of the aircraft carrier will be very expensive
This aircraft carrier was in the service of the French Navy for 37 years. In 2000, the Brazilian Navy bought it and renamed it São Paulo.
But the old ship soon ran into problems, which were exacerbated by a fire on board in 2005. Modernizing an aircraft carrier can be very expensive. Brazil decided to expel him.
In April 2021, Turkish shipyard Sök Denizcilik bought the vessel to cannibalize scrap metal. Since then, a Dutch trawler has been sailing in São Paulo at the shipyard’s expense. But Zach Denisilic threatened to abandon the ship in mid-Atlantic because no port would allow entry to São Paulo.
Entry permit withdrawn
Environmental groups fear Brazil will sink the ship and its waste. The Brazilian military is “now preparing to commit a major environmental crime at sea,” said Jim Puckett, president of the non-governmental organization Basel Action Network. “It is worrying to have 30,000 tonnes of toxic packaging in the ocean with no known recipient,” warns environmentalist Robin Wood.
In June, the Sök Denizcilik shipyard received approval from Brazilian authorities to tow the vessel to Turkey and dismantle it there. But when São Paulo was roughly level with the Strait of Gibraltar in late August, Turkish authorities withdrew their entry permit.
The Brazilian navy had to intervene
Brazil did not allow the Sao Paulo to return, despite the ship’s “deteriorating damage” to its hull, but did not enter any port. After the ship was docked in the port of Suape in northeastern Brazil for several months, a Turkish shipyard threatened to abandon it and abandon it in Brazilian waters. The Dutch tug ALP Guard, commissioned by a Turkish shipyard, began moving off the coast of Brazil on January 19 due to a court order.
Brazilian environmental agency IPAMA, which is responsible for compliance with the Basel Convention on Transboundary Disposal of Hazardous Waste, called on the Brazilian Navy to intervene. Environmentalists are pinning their hopes on Brazil’s new president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, 77, who has pledged to do his bit for the environment.
As commander-in-chief of the Brazilian Navy, the non-governmental organization Shipbreaking Platform called on President Lula to “immediately intervene and order the return of the São Paulo to Rio de Janeiro.” On the other hand, if Brazil deliberately sinks the ship, it amounts to a state-designated environmental crime. (AFP/jmh)
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