On Thursday 4th August, 2022 the 2010 built aht ALP CENTRE left Rio De Janeiro, Brazil towing Brazil’s decommissioned aircraft carrier NAe SAO PAULO A 12 bound for Aliağa, Turkey to be dismantled.
The NAe SAO PAULO started her life as the FS FOCH R 99 as the French Navy (Marine Nationale) Clemenceau class aircraft carrier commissioned on 15th July 1963. The ship operated a carrier wing of 40 fighters (Dassault Etendard and then Super-Etendard).
In September 2000, she was sold to Brazil for $ 30 million with no aircraft were included in the price and to replace the aged carrier NAe MINAS GERAIS A 11 which had been in commission for over 40 years. Brazil had previously approached other countries, such as Spain, who wanted to construct a US$500 million carrier for Brazil, about the acquisition of a carrier. The government had already purchased a flotilla of 23 used A-4 Skyhawk fighter planes from Kuwait for $70 million where she served as the flagship of the Marinha do Brasil (Brazilian Navy).
In 2017, she was retired from service, and decommissioned a year later. In 2021, the carrier was sold to be scrapped to the Turkish demolition yard SÖK Denizcilik. Her last journey began last 4th August, 2022, when the aircraft carrier left Rio de Janeiro towed by the ALP CENTRE bound to Aliağa, Turkey. However, on Friday 26th August, 2022 the convoy were off the Moroccan coast and preparing to enter the Mediterranean Sea through Gibraltar, the convoy came to a stop.
NAVAREA Warning – 54W NAVAREA II 262/22 CANARIAS-MADEIRA-AGADIR-CASABLANCA-CADIZ-GIBRALTAR STRAIT. TUG ALP CENTRE TOWING AN AIRCRAFT CARRIER TO ALIAGA (TURKEY). ETA 090600 UTC SEP 22. LENGTH OF TOW 1500 METRES. POSITION 260900 UTC AUG 22 26-51N 015-27W. WIDE BERTH OF 2 MILES REQUESTED
In an official statement, Turkish Minister of the Environment Murat Kurum explained that the entry of the aircraft carrier into the country’s waters was suspended, conditioned upon a new hazardous materials inventory report.
An initial report submitted by the Brazilian authorities was judged dubious, with major differences in the quantity of identified hazardous materials compared to ships of the same class and period. For example, it estimated the presence of only 9.6 tonnes of asbestos when the FS CLEMENCEAU, FS FOCH’s sister ship, contained at least 600 ts of this cancerous material formerly used for fireproofing. The survey did not detect PCBs, a material commonly used in insulation in the 1950s before being banned in the 1970s for being highly carcinogenic. There again, 165 tonnes of PCBs were found in the CLEMENCEAU.
Finally, the NGO Ban Abestos France noted that the FS FOCH was involved in securing the French atmospheric nuclear tests in the Pacific Ocean in the 1960s.
“The presence of 170 tonnes of lead/cadmium paint could retain radioactive contamination, as well as the lack of information on the prior removal of radioactive equipment, raise fears that the ship is contaminated despite claims to the contrary,” the NGO wrote in a statement. Early on September 8, 2022, the Turkish member of parliament Ednan Arslan noted that the ALP CENTRE changed her destination back to Rio De Janeiro. With the NAe SAO PAULO now sailing back to Rio de Janeiro, her fate remains unclear.
Meanwhile in August Aliağa Labor and Democracy Platform held a rally against the arrival of the Brazilian Navy’s NAe SAO PAULO A 12, whose asbestos amount was discussed.
Ironically, the CLEMENCEAU had a similar fate. In 2006, the aircraft carrier was blocked by Egypt as it was about to transit through the Suez Canal to be dismantled in India. Following the decision of the Indian authorities not to receive the carrier after all, the warship returned to Brest, the port where she had been built fifty years earlier. The dismantling was eventually taken over by the British company Able Ship Recycling.
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Published – Friday 30th September, 2022