BDespite major environmental concerns, Brazil has sunk a decommissioned aircraft carrier off its Atlantic coast. A Navy statement said the aircraft carrier Sao Paulo was sunk late Friday in a “planned and controlled sinking.” The action could have avoided “logistical, operational, ecological and economic losses for the Brazilian state”.
The sinking took place in Brazilian territorial waters 350 kilometers off the coast in the northeast of the country, where the sea is 5000 meters deep. The choice of location limited the impact on fisheries and ecosystems, the Navy said.
Environmental organizations and the federal prosecutor’s office had campaigned against the sinking, since the French-built aircraft carrier, which dates from the late 1950s, contains a number of toxic substances, such as nine tons of asbestos. “The sinking of the aircraft carrier dumped tons of asbestos, mercury, lead and other highly toxic substances into the seabed,” Greenpeace said in a statement. The organization accused the Brazilian Navy of neglecting to protect the seas. In a technical note, the Brazilian environmental agency Ibama had previously pointed out several environmental impacts that could be caused by the sinking.
Brazil’s environment minister was against sinking
There was also disagreement within the government about how to proceed. As reported by Brazilian media with reference to government sources, Brazil’s Environment Minister Marina Silva is said to have campaigned against sinking. After a long internal debate, however, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is said to have given the Navy the green light to blow up the intact parts of the ship and sink it. The Navy argued that the cost was too high to stabilize the aircraft carrier offshore and there was a risk of an uncontrolled sinking close to shore, which would have had far more severe environmental impacts.
The 32,000-ton, over 200-meter-long aircraft carrier was acquired by the Brazilian Navy in 2000 for just $12 million. However, the ship should have been overhauled for about $80 million, which never happened. After decommissioning, the carrier was bought by Turkish ship recycling company Sök Denizcilik for $10.5 million. However, Turkey refused importation into Turkey because of the environmental risk, after which the ship was towed back to Brazil. According to the Brazilian Navy, the company was asked to repair the aircraft carrier in a Brazilian shipyard. However, since the ship was in danger of sinking, it was no longer allowed to enter a Brazilian port.
The “São Paulo” was therefore off the Brazilian coast for three months until it was sunk on Friday. As Brazilian media reports, the company Sela from Saudi Arabia had contacted the Brazilian Navy a few days before the sinking and submitted an offer for the purchase of the hull of the aircraft carrier for 30 million dollars. However, the contract was not concluded. Because the ship already had cracks in its hull and water was getting in, the Brazilian Navy decided to tow the ship into deep water and sink it as quickly as possible.
Greenpeace accuses Brazil of violating the Basel Convention, the London Convention for the Prevention of Marine Pollution and the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants with the dumping. “The Brazilian Navy chose to harm the environment and lose millions of dollars rather than allow the ship to be inspected publicly,” Greenpeace said, calling the sinking the “largest chemical and waste treaty violation ever committed by any country.” became”.
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