The fate of the hull of the former São Paulo aircraft carrier (FS Foch in the French Navy) could be the bottom of the sea, according to environmental organizations.
“It is now clear that the Navy does not want to receive any more scrutiny than it would certainly receive upon returning home to the São Paulo, and it appears that they will now try to scuttle her using a false excuse – out of sight, out of mind,” said Jim Puckett, Executive Director of the Basel Action Network (BAN).
Since January 20, the vessel has been under the control of the Brazilian Navy, which moved a tugboat to a region in the northeast of the country after its owner, the Turkish shipyard Sök Denizcilik Tic Sti, abandoned it.
The company that won the hull auction tried to take the aircraft carrier to Turkey to be dismantled within ecological standards, however, the country’s government suspended the entry authorization after not receiving certificates guaranteeing the removal of asbestos and other heavy metals from the ship.
The impasse led the tug Alp Guard to return to Brazil after taking the “Sao Paulo” in August from the Brazilian Navy base in Rio de Janeiro.
However, the Brazilian authorities prohibited the docking of the hull in a port in the country and with that the former aircraft carrier was kept a few kilometers from the coast.
Sök tried to obtain authorization to carry out maintenance on the hull, however, in the face of failure, it renounced its ownership rights and decided to leave it adrift, which forced the Navy to take action to prevent it from sinking or running aground near a port in the region.
The former São Paulo was then taken to a point in the Atlantic Ocean 170 nautical miles (315 km) from the Brazilian coast.
The Brazilian Navy claims that the vessel is in conditions of “severe degradation”, with risks of sinking. The statement led a group of NGOs to ask the president of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, to intervene to avoid what they consider a potential ecological disaster.
“São Paulo” was purchased by the Brazilian government in 2000 from France, where she operated as FS Foch. The 32,800-ton vessel was commissioned in 1963 and has operated a range of aircraft types, from F-8 Crusader fighters to the Dassault Rafale.
In Brazil, the vessel had a troubled career and spent more time in a shipyard than sailing. The Navy acquired A-4 attack aircraft from Kuwait that operated aboard the aircraft carrier, but are now based on land.