Brazil scuttles decommissioned aircraft carrier in Atlantic Ocean

The Brazilian Navy aircraft carrier NAe São Paulo underway, February 9, 2011 (Photo: Brazilian Navy)

The Brazilian Navy deliberately scuttled the decommissioned aircraft carrier ex-NAe São Paulo late last week after an assessment of the ship’s deteriorating condition revealed that its uncontrolled sinking would have been inevitable.

The scuttling was done on Friday, February 3, when the navy detonated explosives on board the carrier while it was in international waters but still within the outer limit of Brazil’s exclusive economic zone in the Atlantic Ocean some 350 kilometres off the coast.

Navy officials later confirmed that three holes have been detected in the hull and that the ship would finally reach the seabed approximately 5,000 metres below before the end of the month.

São Paulo‘s scuttling came after the carrier and the tug towing it had reportedly been sailing in circles offshore northeastern Brazil as the navy and some of the country’s port authorities prohibited its entry for docking due to environmental safety concerns.

Last year, the carrier was sold to a Turkish recycling company for potential scrapping. However, it was denied entry into Aliaga after the Turkish Ministry of the Environment discovered that its asbestos and hazardous material content levels were significantly higher than what the Brazilian government had reported prior to the sale.

The Brazilian Navy then re-acquired São Paulo from its Turkish buyer and had it brought back across the Atlantic to the waters off Pernambuco state. The convoy remained in those waters as the carrier’s eventual fate was being decided.

Brussels-based non-profit NGO Shipbreaking Platform said in a statement that the carrier still had an estimated 760 tonnes of asbestos and 300 tonnes of other contaminated material on board when it was scuttled.

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