Toxic materials warning as Brazilian aircraft carrier sets sail for date with Turkish shipbreaker

Toxic materials warning as Brazilian aircraft carrier sets sail for date with Turkish shipbreaker
Brazilian aircraft carrier Sao Paulo. / Rob Schleiffert, cc-by-sa 2.0.
By bne IntelIiNews August 23, 2022

Environment management regulators in Turkey have advised that a new inventory of hazardous materials (IHM) must be conducted prior to the export of a Brazilian aircraft carrier to a Turkish shipbreaking yard, AllAboutShipping reported on August 23.

Reports indicate, however, that the six-decade-old carrier, the Sao Paulo, has already set sail for Turkey.

The trade news site reported that the Brazilian government and ship recycler Sok Denizcilik Tic.Ve Ltd.Sti (SOK) of Aliaga, Turkey, the buyer of the Sao Paulo, were sent scrambling when the regulators sent a letter to the Brazilian agency IBAMA, the competent authority for the Basel Convention, requiring the new IHM.

“… As a result of the [Turkish] Supreme Court’s interim injunction, news in the press, and the hazardous materials notices made to our [Turkish Environment] Ministry, it has emerged that a new Inventory of Hazardous Materials for the ex-naval vessel in question should be prepared while the vessel is in Brazilian territorial waters before it comes to our country,” the regulators wrote.

Environmental and labour rights groups working on the matter in Turkey, Brazil, and internationally have claimed for weeks that the export of the ship from Brazil to Turkey was illegal under the Basel and Barcelona Conventions and that the current IHM was not credible.

“Turkey is to be applauded for asking for a true and accurate survey and inventory,” Nicola Mulinaris of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform was cited as saying. “The current one is simply not believable based on what we know about older aircraft carriers.  We have real concerns that the provided inventory grossly underestimates the hazardous and radioactive materials on board the Sao Paulo.”

AllAboutShipping said it must be noted that Grieg Green, the survey company that issued the IHM for SOK, among other things:

admitted they had access to only 12% of the ship;

did not have access to the IHM prepared by the Brazilian Navy;

concluded that there might be more asbestos onboard the aircraft carrier than the estimated nine tons;


recommended further sampling during dismantling operations. 

The Sao Paulo’s sister ship Clemenceau was estimated to have at least 760 tonnes of asbestos, a figure later confirmed by Bureau Veritas upon its dismantling at scrap yard Able UK, the news outlet added.

Jim Puckett, executive director of the Basel Action Network, was reported as saying. “The rush by the Brazilian government to get out to sea without checking to see if Turkey has laws against such import, to alert transit countries, and before a court injunction can be properly served, is not an excuse for Turkey to ever allow this ship into our territory.” 

The Sao Paulo was first commissioned by the French Navy as Foch in 1963 and was sold to Brazil in 2000 for around $30mn, where she became the new flagship of the Brazilian Navy. The ship was demobilised and decommissioned in 2017.