Brazil sunk the decommissioned aircraft carrier “Sao Paulo” in the Atlantic on Friday. Authorities gave the go-ahead for the sinking despite warnings from environmental groups that the former French ship was full of toxic cargo.
“The procedure was carried out with all the necessary technical capabilities and security to avoid logistical, operational, environmental and economic damage to the Brazilian state,” the Brazilian Navy said in a press release.
Sao Paulo has become a ghost ship for the past five months, sailing freely across the Atlantic. The Navy sunk it in Brazilian territorial waters in the Atlantic Ocean about 350 kilometers from the coast. Although the representatives of the Ministry of Defense asserted that the vessel would be sunk in the “safest area”, the move was sharply criticized by environmentalists. According to activists, the aircraft carrier contains hazardous materials that could seep into the sea and contaminate the marine food chain.
A day before the sinking, the Brazilian Attorney General’s Office filed a new report with the Ministry of Justice, claiming that the ship was carrying tons of asbestos, heavy metals and other toxic substances. Director of the Basel Action Network (BAN) Jim Puckett meanwhile, accused the Brazilian navy of gross negligence. “If they go ahead with plans to sink a toxic vessel in the Atlantic Ocean, they will violate articles of three international environmental treaties,” he added.
In light of this, the Brazilian president Luiza Inacia Lulo da Silva, who took office last month with a promise to stop the growing destruction of the environment, called for an immediate halt to this dangerous plan.
From the Pacific to Yugoslavia
The aircraft carrier was built at the end of the 1950s in France, whose navy sailed with her for 37 years. It participated in the first French nuclear tests in the Pacific in the 1960s and in operations in Africa, the Middle East and the former Yugoslavia from the 1970s to the 1990s.
Brazil bought the 266-meter-long aircraft carrier in 2000 for $12 million. Last year, however, it authorized the Turkish company Sok Denizcilik to dismantle it for scrap metal, but in August the Turkish environmental authorities blocked the plan.
Brazil then brought the aircraft carrier back, but did not allow it to enter the port due to environmental risks. The Navy towed the ship to a location 350 kilometers off the coast of Brazil, where the water is 5,000 meters deep, and designated the location as the safest area to carry out the dive.