Despite protests from the Brazil’s Minister for Environment, the Brazilian Navy said on the evening of on Feb. 4, 2023 it had begun to sink the decommissioned aircraft carrier São Paulo, packed with an undetermined amount of asbestos and other toxic materials, about 220 miles off the country’s northeastern coast.
The news release from the service did not give details of the operation, and it was not clear whether the ship had gone down. Naval officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
On Jan. 13, 2023 a team of technical experts found the former warship in poor condition: as reported by Alert 5 the inspection found a new breach in the vessel, an increase in the flooding level, and corrosion compared to the inspection conducted four months earlier.
The Sao Paulo was under tow 20 nautical miles from the Port of Suape, in Pernambuco.
The Brazilian Navy said they intended to send the vessel to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean by using explosives to open breaches in the ship. This has raised environmental concerns as the former aircraft carrier still have tons of asbestos materials on board.
The aircraft carrier was sold by the Navy to the Turkish shipyard Sök Denizcilik and Ticaret Limited and left Brazil in August last year to be broken up in Turkey.
The decommissioned aircraft carrier has been floating offshore for three months. Since Turkey refused it entry to be scrapped there, the Brazilian Navy said on Feb. 1, 2023 that is had been decided to sink the ship in the Atlantic Ocean in waters under Brazil’s jurisdiction.
As reported by the CNN the Sao Paulo did not get past the Gibraltar straits after having been towed by a tug to Europe. It was returned across the Atlantic after Turkey decided it was an environmental hazard.
The Brazilian Navy explained in a statement that the ship has not been allowed to dock at Brazilian ports because it is taking on water and is at risk of sinking.
The service added that it had no choice but to scuttle the ship in water about 5,000 meters (16,400 feet) deep 350 kilometers (217 miles) off-shore within Brazil’s exclusive economic zone despite a request by Environment Minister Marina Silva not to sink the carrier.
According to the statement the site is far from environmental protection areas and free of undersea communication cables.
“Given its deteriorating floating condition and the inevitability of uncontrolled sinking, there is no other option but to jettison the hull and sink it in a planned way,” it said.
The Navy had planned to scuttle the carrier on Wednesday at sea but public prosecutors sought to stop the sinking in Brazilian waters citing the environmental threat it poses, including tonnes of asbestos used for paneling inside the ship.
A federal judge on Wednesday afternoon denied their request for an injunction arguing that the Navy had weighed the environmental impact against other factors.
According to Navy Recognition, Sao Paulo is a Clemenceau-class aircraft carrier that was first commissioned in 1963 by the French Navy as Foch and was transferred in 2000 to Brazil, where she became the new flagship of the Brazilian Navy. The vessel displaces 32,800 tons, has a length of 265 meters and a crew of 1,920 sailors. It is able to accommodate 39 aircraft: 22 jets and 17 helicopters. In Brazilian Navy service these were: A-4KU Skyhawks (that the Brazilian Navy re-designated AF-1 and AF-1A Falcões), AS 532 SC Cougars, HB 350 & HB.355 Ecureuils, and SH-3 Sea Kings. Photo credit: Rob Schleiffert Sao Paulo at sea via Wikipedia
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