After controversy, the Brazilian Navy sank the former aircraft carrier São Paulo

Hull of the vessel that also served in the French Navy as FS Foch was sunk in a controlled manner on February 3, 350 km from the Brazilian coast

Among all the possible fates for the hull of the former aircraft carrier São Paulo (FS Foch in the French Navy) the worst of them prevailed, the sinking of tons of steel and toxic materials in a place 350 km from the Brazilian coast.

The Brazilian Navy announced that it had sunk the vessel on the afternoon of January 3 in an area with a depth of around 5,000 meters.

“The procedure was carried out with the necessary technical competence and safety by the Brazilian Navy, in order to avoid logistical, operational, environmental and economic damage to the Brazilian State”, said an official statement released later in the day by the Navy.

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Hull of the former São Paulo aircraft carrier (MSK)

It was the epilogue of a succession of questionable actions by the Brazilian authorities that culminated in the disposal of materials that could have been reused while others, harmful to the environment, such as the alleged 9 tons of asbestos, would have been properly treated.

From potential museum to scrap metal on the bottom of the sea

Purchased from France in the early 2000s, the “São Paulo” replaced the “Minas Gerais”, a small British aircraft carrier that ended up being scrapped in India without any environmental care.

The operation of the aircraft carrier in Brazil, however, was troubled. After three years in service with the Navy, which equipped her with A-4 Skyhawk attack planes purchased from Kuwait, the São Paulo suffered a fire in the engine room that killed three sailors.

The former “Minas Gerais” aircraft carrier in Alang, India

The aircraft carrier spent five years (2005 to 2010) undergoing a renovation and receiving new equipment, when the vessel returned to the sea for tests, but some time later it suffered other fires on board.

The São Paulo still remains in service until 2014, when the Navy announces a new reform that would make the aircraft carrier operate until 2039.

The upgrade program, however, was not carried out and in February 2017 the Brazilian Navy announced the demobilization of the vessel, claiming that the project would require “high financial investment, would contain technical uncertainties and would require a long period of completion.”

USS Intrepid museum in New York (luxurylaunches)


Then begins the controversy over the fate of the hull. While the Navy was still preparing the ship’s deactivation process, the NGO “Instituto São Paulo/Foch” announced its intention to transform it into a museum, like other aircraft carriers that have become tourist attractions.

But the Navy considered this option unfeasible. “Due to severe budget restrictions, the ship’s port and the complexity of removing some of the equipment and materials on board, its assignment for other purposes, other than dismantling or sinking”, explained the maritime force in a statement.

In November 2018, the “São Paulo Aerodrome Ship (NAe São Paulo)” was decommissioned, after removing equipment and materials that could be reused.

In its 16 years with the Brazilian Navy, the aircraft carrier spent just seven months at sea, during which time it carried out 566 aircraft launches.

Flight deck of the aircraft carrier Sao Paulo (MB)


On September 23, 2019, the Brazilian government launched the tender for the sale of the ship’s hull, with a minimum bid of BRL 5.3 million.

But in August of the following year, the auction was suspended in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. Only one interested party had signed up to bid for it, Mediterranean Ships Breaking.

At the time, the French government had already instructed that the dismantling of the ship be done in the European Union, whose shipyards were certified to carry out the service without ecological risks.

In October 2020, the auction resumes, but ends with no interested parties. Rescheduled for March 2021, the auction finally finds a buyer, the Turkish shipyard SÖK Denizclik Ticaret Ltd, which won the bid between three bidders, with a proposal of around US$ 2 million.

SÖK shipyard in Turkey (GE)

The procedures to take the hull of the former aircraft carrier São Paulo to Turkey took 17 months, when reports and authorizations were issued so that the vessel could leave Brazil and dock at the company’s shipyard in İzmir.

Only in August 2022 did the vessel leave Ilha das Cobras, taken by the Dutch tugboat Alp Centre.

From there the story is known. A sad end for a ship that carried out important missions when it was under the command of the French Navy and that also served as a fundamental learning experience for Brazilian sailors, despite its troubled operational career.

Better luck was the sister vessel Clemenceau which, despite having gone through a similar situation, ended up being dismantled with dignity in the United Kingdom in 2008.

‘São Paulo’ aircraft carrier left Brazil in August 2022 to be scrapped in Turkey (AIRWAY)


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