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Aircraft carrier "Toxic" returns to the Brazilian Navy but stays at sea
By Sea and Coast | 24/01/2023
The story of the abandoned former Brazilian aircraft carrier NAe So Paulo continues; after more than three months at sea, the Brazilian Navy now takes possession of the hulk. The Brazilian Navy has ordered the ship to go further offshore because it is in danger of sinking, despite environmental groups' claims that it is heavily loaded with asbestos and other toxic materials. The Brazilian Navy believes the scrapper is to blame for the problems.
 
Since they were forced to bring the aircraft carrier back to Brazil in August 2022 as the tow of the vessel approached Gibraltar after Turkey's Environmental Ministry revoked the import licence, Brazilian authorities and the Turkish recycling company Sok Denizcilik Tic Sti have been at odds over what will happen to the hulk. The ship was ordered to be towed back to Brazil by the Brazilian Environmental Agency (IBAMA), but when it got there, ports tried to prevent it from docking. The Navy was unable to command the ship to dock because the Brazilian courts took the ports' side.
 
the maritime tug Alp Centre is stuck in the middle and unable to let go of its tow. Following months of wrangling between the government and the recycling company that owned the ship, the scrapper insisted that Brazil cave in and dock the ship, or they threatened to turn the ship over. The trapped Alps wished to free its ship and return its crew to their home country. The ship had been instructed to circle the shore for the past 24 nautical miles since leaving Brazil.
 
Before certifying on January 20 that it had reassumed ownership of the aircraft carrier, the Brazilian Navy accused Sok of not meeting the necessary conditions. They said that the scrapper had neglected to establish plans for the vessel's repair and was not keeping up with the required P&I insurance coverage. The transfer took occurred 170 nautical miles off the coast of Brazil, and according to the Navy, there are no plans to dock the ship or bring it closer to land.
 
The aircraft carrier was purchased by Sok in April 2021 for recycling, however the Navy claims it was the scrappers' duty to inspect the ship and adhere to all international regulations regarding the movement of dangerous materials. During the 1990s, according to the Navy, France purportedly removed 55 tonnes of asbestos from the propulsion systems, catapult, auxiliary equipment, and diesel generators. After a string of disasters, Brazil bought the ship in 2000 and decommissioned it in 2018.
 
Brazil claims that although the ship was in "excellent watertight condition and buoyancy" when it departed Rio de Janeiro in August 2022, it is currently decomposing quickly. Between the first survey in October and the second survey in December 2022, they report progressive degradation that they claim Sok is unable to address. Small leaks were found in the hull. Given this situation, Brazil claims it took over the operations, while Sok claims it turned over the vessel in order to ensure the safety of canal traffic and the prevention of environmental damage.
 
Green organisations replied to the most recent developments by stating they were "shocked over this decision" and "not convinced" by the Navy's "sudden justification that the ship constituted an urgent risk." Green organisations have been closely monitoring the story of the NAe So Paulo. Action is being demanded by the groups.
 
"We appeal to President Lula to act promptly and issue orders to send the NAe So Paulo back to Rio de Janeiro to be received at the same Navy pier from which it departed or find an appropriate recycling location. President Lula is the commander-in-chief of the Brazilian Navy. This poisonous aircraft carrier's deliberate sinking would constitute a state-sponsored environmental crime, "said Ingvild Jenssen, the NGO Shipbreaking Platform's executive director and founder.
 
The parties claim that a Navy representative "already alluded to a possible contingency action of sinking the ship" at the end of December. The NGOs worry that the Navy will exploit the pretext of a minor leak in the ship's structure to compel its sinking in the Atlantic Ocean, never bring the ship back to a port, and never re-examine it for the quantity of hazardous wastes, toxicity, and suspected radiation it may contain.
 
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