The ship can no longer be left dangerously adrift in the Atlantic
Cross-border movement gone wrong
The former French aircraft carrier FOCH, currently SÃO PAULO (A-12), was sold by the French Navy to Brazil in 2000. Already at the time, the French government was concerned about the management of the end of life of the vessel and would have requested that the final destination of the vessel be approved by them to ensure its safe and environmentally sound disposal.
The SÃO PAULO was officially decommissioned by Brazil in 2017, then auctioned only to EU-approved and French-approved recycling yards. On March 18, 2021 the ship was purchased for recycling by the Turkish company Sök (Sök Denizcilik and Ticaret Limited) in Aliaa (Turkey). Prior to its export to Turkey for disposal, the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, Basel Action Network (BAN), BAN Asbestos France, the association Henri Pézerat (Work, Health, Environment), the International Secretariat for the Prohibition of Asbestos (IBAS), stanbul Isig Meclisi, Brazilian ABREA and Greenpeace Mediterranean have all expressed in letters to IBAMA (Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources), the Brazilian Competent Authority of Basel, their great concerns regarding the proposed cross-border movement, which are summarized below, regarding the questionable legality of the export.
Export – probably illegal
1. Federal District Court Injunction
On August 4, an injunction from the Brazilian Federal District Court to stop SÃO PAULO’s departure was issued but ignored. Following the court’s decision, the vessel was hastily towed out to sea, and instead of following the towing plan which called for sailing along the coast, the towing gear turned eastward out of the Brazilian territorial waters as soon as possible.
The ship in need of repairs and now ‘towed’ while going around in circles
More than a month has passed since the toxic aircraft carrier returned to Brazilian territory. And yet, the ship was not allowed to dock safely. It is still drifting off the state of Pernambuco, while the Brazilian Navy, as the ship’s former owner, and IBAMA, as the Basel authority, fail to demand and provide refuge. safe to prevent potential damage to the crew and the marine environment. Alarmed by the presence of toxic materials in the structure of the SÃO PAULO, the National Environmental Agency (CPRH) of Pernambuco refused the mooring of the hull at the port of Suape, located south of Recife, on the south coast . Several other Brazilian facilities approached by Sök, the ship’s current owner, also refused to temporarily accommodate the ship due to an alleged lack of available berths or technical capabilities.
After the ship arrived at its current location on October 5, in accordance with the instructions of the Ports and Coasts Directorate of the Brazilian Navy, its inspection was ordered in order to verify its integrity. Therefore, AWS Service conducted inspections on October 12 and 14, and concluded that, due to structural degradation and damage resulting from environmental effects, “immediate mooring is recommended for structural repair, to avoid increased damage and possible loss of stability during a long period at sea”.
Brazil must act today to provide shelter immediately
International and national NGOs, witnesses of this hopeless situation, urgently demand responsible action on the part of Brazil. The Basel Convention is clear. Where a transboundary movement of hazardous waste cannot be completed, the State of export shall ensure that the waste in question is taken back to the State of export by the exporter and that such waste is managed in a manner environmentally sound. Although Brazil can claim to have brought back the SÃO PAULO (the waste), it is currently not managed in an environmentally sound manner – still floating at sea. The Basel Convention calls on Brazil to take immediate responsibility. We urge the Brazilian authorities to immediately find a safe port to moor the vessel. The ship may well return to the departure dock.
After the ship is safely moored in Brazil, the NGOs are further calling for a new plan to safely recycle or reuse the ship – a plan that ensures that human health and the environment are protected first and that the Basel Convention is applied correctly. Given the impossibility of this attempted cross-border movement of hazardous waste to Turkey due to the Barcelona Convention protocol on waste trade and unreliable IMDs from the buyer, NGOs are urging Brazil and the France (the original owner) to start over, to run a new IMD, and to launch a new sale including only legal and competent destinations, with the price of recycling, commensurate with the safe and efficient management of the operation ship recycling.
The Basel Parties and the Secretariat are urged to do their utmost to ensure that Brazil and France take urgent action.
For more information:
Jim Puckett, Executive Director of BAN
Annie Thébaud-Mony, for Ban Asbestos-France Association
Nicola Mulinaris, NGO Shipbreaking Platform,
About Basel Action Network
Founded in 1997, the Basel Action Network is a 501(c)3 charitable organization of the United States, based in Seattle, WA. BAN is the world’s only organization focused on confronting the global environmental justice and economic inefficiency of toxic trade and its devastating impacts. Today, BAN serves as the information clearinghouse on the subject of waste trade for journalists, academics, and the general public. Through its investigations, BAN uncovered the tragedy of hazardous electronic waste dumping in developing countries. For more information, see www.BAN.org.
About The NGO Shipbreaking Platform
The NGO Shipbreaking Platform is a coalition of environmental, human and labor rights organisations, headquartered in Brussels, Belgium. For more than 10 years, we have been fighting for shipbreaking workers’ right to a safe job, the use of best available technologies, and for equally protective environmental standards globally. With a broad base of support both geographically and in orientation we challenge the arguments of a powerful shipping industry not used to being held accountable for its substandard practices. We raise public awareness of the human rights abuses and pollution caused by shipbreaking, and seek to prompt both policies and marketplace incentives to divert traffic away from the infamous breaking beaches. Our goal is to find sustainable solutions that encompass the principles of human rights, corporate accountability, environmental justice, “polluter pays”, producer responsibility and clean production.
2. Export without notification and consent of transit States
Cross-border movement of SÃO PAULO from Brazil to Turkey took place without notification of transit states. Under Article 6.4 of the Basel Convention, all transit states must be notified prior to export. IBAMA asserted in an email exchange with the NGOs that notification was not necessary if the vessel did not call at a port; however, this interpretation of the Convention is incorrect. The definitions of “cross-border movement”, “State of transit” and “area under national jurisdiction” clearly indicate that transit includes passage through territorial waters. Therefore, at least Spain, Morocco, UK, Malta, Italy and Tunisia should have been warned and their consent should have preceded any move.
3. Export to a Party that has prohibited import
Turkey has a nationwide ban on importing hazardous waste of any kind. This ban has been notified to the Basel Secretariat. Furthermore, Turkey is a Party to the Izmir Protocol, which also means that Turkey must ban all imports of hazardous waste. The Izmir Protocol (a Basel Accord under Article 11) has also been notified to the Basel Secretariat. As an exporting State Party, Brazil must, under Article 4.1.b, prohibit all exports to Turkey. However, Brazil authorized this export, in flagrant violation of the Convention.
4. Differences in quantification of toxic waste
The SÃO PAULO, like her infamous sister ship CLEMENCEAU, whose mishandled export to India was recalled to Europe at great expense due to violations of the Basel Convention, contains large quantities of hazardous substances in her structure and is therefore considered a hazardous waste under the Basel Convention. France, Brazil and Turkey are all Parties to the Convention. Based on the audits carried out on the CLEMENCEAU, we can estimate that the SÃO PAULO contains approximately 900 tonnes of asbestos and materials containing asbestos, as well as materials containing polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) and heavy metals toxic to edge. It is obvious that the SÃO PAULO is a particularly toxic ship. What a ship actually contains in terms of hazardous waste is key to determining its environmentally sound management and therefore its legal fate under the Basel Convention. And yet, despite this fact, a questionable independent audit or Hazardous Materials Inventory (IMD) was carried out before the export by the Norwegian company Grieg Green, which reported the presence of only 10 tons of asbestos on board the ship. Article 9.1.d of the Convention states that if a shipment does not materially conform to the documentation, it is illicit traffic. We therefore cannot trust the ship recycling plan submitted to IBAMA by Sök, if the quantification is not correct. The serious inventory discrepancies and other uncertainties led to the injunction cited in paragraph 1 above.
And yet, despite all the concerns raised, the SÃO PAULO left Rio de Janeiro on August 4, 2022, towed by the Dutch ship ALP CENTER on a 6,000 mile journey to Turkey to be scrapped. IBAMA claims to this day that the export was done legally.
Turkey denies access
On August 9, following news of the Brazilian Supreme Court’s interim injunction and letters written by NGOs, and local protests, the Turkish government demanded the preparation of a new IMD for the vessel. Having no answer on this subject and with the approach of the ship to the Mediterranean Sea, on August 26, Murat Kurum, Turkish Minister of Environment, City and Climate Change banned the toxic aircraft carrier SÃO PAULO to enter Turkish national waters. Accordingly, IBAMA ordered the return of the vessel to Brazil as required by Article 8 of the Basel Convention.