LatinNews Daily - 06 February 2023

BRAZIL: Aircraft carrier sunk off the Atlantic coast

On 4 February the Brazilian navy finally sank the 32,000-tonne decommissioned aircraft carrier São Paulo using controlled explosions in Brazilian waters off the country’s north-east coast.


The fate of the São Paulo, a Clemenceau-class aircraft carrier which had originally been purchased from the French navy in 1998, has been highly controversial, with environmental lobby group Greenpeace claiming the sinking has deposited “tonnes of asbestos, mercury, lead and other highly toxic substances into the seabed”. The carrier had a checkered two-decade long stint in the Brazilian navy, most of the time confined to port and awaiting a major refit which never materialised. Last year it was finally decommissioned and sold for US$10.5m to Turkish marine recycling company Sök Denizcilik Tic Sti. 

  • The ship set sail from Brazil intending to reach the Turkish company’s breaker yard, but was turned back before reaching the Mediterranean because the Turkish government barred it from docking at any of its ports. In deteriorating conditions, it was then towed back to Brazilian waters, completing an unsuccessful 15,000-km round trip. The Brazilian navy initially called on the new owners to repair the vessel in a Brazilian yard, but when an inspection showed it was taking on water, it too was banned from entering any Brazilian ports.
  • As a result the former carrier was left drifting outside the north-east port of Suape, convincing the navy that the only remaining course of action was to sink it. The São Paulo was sunk 350km from Recife on the north-eastern Brazilian coastline, in a spot close to international waters, and at an estimated depth of 5,000 metres. The sinking went ahead despite a last-minute attempt by federal public prosecutors to stay the process and analyse other options.

Looking Ahead: The newly inaugurated government of centre-left president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva appears to be prioritising the environmental and humanitarian crisis facing the Yanomami indigenous community in the Amazon and dedicating less time to the issue of marine pollution. Marine pollution lobby group Basel Action Network said it had appealed directly to Lula to intervene but had received no reply.

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