Brazil sinks an aircraft carrier in the Atlantic despite the threat of pollution | Environmental news

Critics of Brazil’s planned sinking of the decommissioned aircraft carrier Sao Paulo have described it as a ‘state-sponsored environmental crime’.

Brazil has sunk a decommissioned aircraft carrier in the Atlantic Ocean despite concerns raised by environmental groups that the old warship was filled with toxic materials.

“The planned and controlled sinking took place late afternoon” on Friday, some 350 km (220 miles) off Brazil’s coast in the Atlantic Ocean, in an area with “an approximate depth of 5,000 meters [16,000 feet]”, it is stated in the press release of the Brazilian Navy.

The decision to sink the six-decade-old aircraft carrier “Sao Paulo” came after Brazilian authorities tried in vain to find a port willing to accept the ship.

Although defense officials said they would scuttle the ship in the “safest area,” environmentalists attacked the decision, saying the warship contained tons of asbestos, heavy metals and other toxic materials that could leach into the water and contaminate the marine food chain.

The Basel Action Network called on newly elected Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva – who took office last month promising to reverse the growing environmental destruction under far-right former president Jair Bolsonaro – to immediately halt the “dangerous” plan to destroy the ship.

The NGO Shipbreaking Platform – a coalition of environmental, labor and human rights organizations – has described Brazil’s planned sinking of the Sao Paulo ship as a potential “state-sponsored environmental crime”.

Built in the late 1950s in France, whose navy operated the aircraft carrier for 37 years as the Foch, the warship has earned a place in 20th century naval history. Sao Paulo participated in the first French nuclear tests in the Pacific in the 1960s, and was deployed in Africa, the Middle East and the former Yugoslavia from the 1970s to the 1990s.

Brazil bought the 266-meter (873-foot) aircraft carrier for $12 million in 2000. The fire that broke out on the ship in 2005 accelerated the deterioration of the ship.

Last year, Brazil authorized the Turkish company Sok Denizcilik to dismantle Sao Paulo for scrap metal. But in August, just as a tugboat was about to tow it into the Mediterranean, Turkish environmental authorities blocked the plan.

Brazil’s defense ministry said in a statement Wednesday that the ship’s dismantling plan “represents an unprecedented attempt” by Brazil to safely dispose of the ship through “environmentally friendly recycling.”

Brazil then returned the aircraft carrier home but did not allow it into port, citing a “high risk” to the environment.

According to a statement from the Ministry of Defense, the area selected for sinking was identified by the Navy’s Hydrographic Center, which deemed it the “safest” site because it was outside Brazil’s exclusive economic zone, environmental protection area, no documented submarine cables and was at a depth greater than 3,000 meters ( 9840 feet).

“Given the facts presented and the increasing risk involved in towing, due to the deterioration of the hull’s buoyancy conditions and the inevitability of spontaneous/uncontrolled sinking, it is not possible to adopt any other course of action other than discarding the hull by planned and controlled sinking,” the ministry announced.

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