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Brazil sank the contaminated former French aircraft carrier Foch in the Atlantic

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The Brazilian Navy announced on Friday that it had sunk the former Foch aircraft carrier filled with asbestos, paint and other toxic waste in the Atlantic Ocean, a decision criticized by several environmental organizations. The “planned and controlled sinking occurred late Friday afternoon”, some 350 km off the Brazilian coast, in an area “approximately 5,000 meters deep”, the navy said in a statement.

Earlier in the week, she felt she had no other choice given the very degraded state of this old hull 266 meters long, described as “toxic package of 30,000 tons” by the Robin des Bois association. “Faced with the risks involved in towing and because of the deterioration of the hull (…), the only solution is to abandon the hull by sinking it in a controlled manner”, explained the navy on Wednesday in a joint press release. with the Brazilian Ministry of Defence.

Asbestos, paints and toxic waste

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The Federal Public Ministry of Brazil (MPF), which tried to stop the operation by multiplying the appeals to the courts, warned of the consequences, stressing this week that the aircraft carrier “currently contains 9.6 tons of asbestos, a substance with toxic and carcinogenic potential, as well as 644 tonnes of inks and other hazardous materials”.

There is a “risk of serious environmental damage (…) in particular because the hull is damaged”, argued the public prosecutor. Same story on the side of the environmental NGOs Greenpeace, Sea Shepherd and Basel Action Network, which denounced “a violation of three international treaties” on the environment. This sinking will cause “incalculable” damage, with “impacts on marine life and coastal communities” they decried in a joint statement.

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Preventing this operation would be “probably” “unnecessary”, given “the imminence of a spontaneous sinking of the hull, which would not benefit the environment and would be likely to endanger the lives of the crew involved. in towing”, for his part wrote the judge of the federal court of the state of Pernambuco (northeast), according to the G1 website. The magistrate authorized the operation although he considered it a “tragic and regrettable” solution, according to G1. An area some 350 km off the Brazilian coast, 5,000 meters deep, was considered “the safest” for this scuttling, according to the press release from the Brazilian Ministry of Defense and Navy.

“Environmental crime”

Two weeks ago, the navy announced that it had taken the former aircraft carrier in tow in the Atlantic. It was previously towed by a Dutch tug for the Turkish shipyard Sok Denizcilik. She had specified that in view of his state of degradation and “the high risk” he represented for the environment, she would not authorize his return to a port or to Brazilian territorial waters. Several NGOs then expressed their fear of seeing Brazil commit an “environmental crime”.

This flagship of the French Navy, transferred to the Brazilian flag in 2000, has long wandered at sea in search of a port of refuge. Built at the end of the 1950s in the shipyard of Saint-Nazaire, in western France, it was for 37 years in the service of the French navy, before being bought in 2000 by Brazil, which renamed Sao Paulo. But due to its dilapidation and a series of problems linked in particular to a fire in 2005, and when its modernization would have cost too much, Brasilia decided to get rid of it.

The Sok Denizcilik shipyard bought her for scrap in April 2021 but threatened to abandon her because they could not find a port to receive her. In June 2022, she obtained authorization from the Brazilian authorities to ferry her to Turkey for dismantling. But when he is at the end of August at the level of the Strait of Gibraltar, the Turkish environmental authorities let it be known that he is no longer welcome.

Brazil made him turn around but without authorizing him to dock despite the finding of “aggravation of damage” to the hull. On January 19, the Dutch tugboat ALP Guard operating on behalf of the yard began to move away from the Brazilian coast, after having spent several months off Pernambuco. But a court decision prohibited him from sailing in international waters without prior authorization from the Brazilian authorities.

This is why the Brazilian public environmental agency Ibama, responsible in Brazil for the application of the Basel Convention on the cross-border movement of hazardous waste, ended up requesting an intervention from the Brazilian Navy.

Source: Europe1

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