Brasília – DF

On January 20th, 2023

The Brazilian Navy (MB), through the Brazilian Maritime Authority (AMB), informs that the company Sök Denizcilik Tic Sti (Sök), owner of the hull of the ex-aircraft carrier (NAe) São Paulo, after receiving determinations from the AMB, has not adopted the necessary measures for the safe maintenance of the hull in the indicated maritime area, located 24 nautical miles (about 46 km) from the Brazilian coast, outside the Territorial Sea.

In this scenario, in order to ensure the safety of waterway traffic and prevent environmental pollution, AMB conducted an expert inspection of the hull, in which a severe degradation of buoyancy and stability conditions was found. Furthermore, the hull is not covered by P&I (Protection and Indemnity) insurance, nor is there a contract for mooring and repair, signed with a company/shipyard capable of performing the necessary services, both of which are the responsibility of the company Sök. In addition, there is the interruption of payment to the company contracted to perform the towage since November 2022.

Thus, the AMB determined a greater distance of the convoy (tugboat connected to the hull) from the coast, to a region with greater depth; and the designation of the frigate “União” and the ocean support ship “Purus” to monitor the towage.

Finally, with the purpose of ensuring the safety of navigation and the prevention of environmental pollution of the Brazilian coast and its ports, the AMB, given the conditions in which the hull is, will not authorize the approach of the hull to inland waters or port terminals, given the high risk it represents, with the possibility of running aground, sinking or blocking the access channel to a national port, with logistical, operational and economic losses to the Brazilian State.

Understanding the case

The hull of the ex-NAe São Paulo was acquired by a foreign company in a bidding process, with a term of possession and property transfer dated April 21, 2021.

It should be added that all actions were conducted in full compliance with the Brazilian and international legislation in force.

After the decision to demobilize the ship and after analyzing the options for its destination, the MB opted for the alienation of the hull for “green recycling”. This is an unprecedented process of Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships. The winner of the auction and current owner of the hull is the Turkish shipyard Sök Denizcilik Tic Sti, accredited and certified to perform safe and environmentally sound recycling.

The MB included in the bid notice requirements that obliged the hull owner to comply with international standards, such as: compliance with the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Waste Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal (1989); and the presentation of an Inventory of Hazardous Materials (IHM), audited by accredited laboratory tests and approved by an independent classification society, based on the resolutions of the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

Regarding the IHM, it should be noted that the ship, while belonging to the French National Navy (MNF), underwent, in the 1990s, extensive dismantling of the propulsion, catapult, auxiliary machinery, and diesel generator compartments, culminating with the removal of approximately 55 tons of asbestos.

Regarding the transfer of the hull to Turkey, the procedures were fully conducted in accordance with the rules issued by IBAMA, which, in Brazil, is the competent authority to issue the authorization for the export of hazardous or controlled waste, under the Basel Convention.

The MB, although it was not the owner of the hull, followed, with attention, the administrative processes and procedures for the environmental clearance carried out by the company Sök, responsible for the actions, in perfect compliance with the requests of IBAMA and the corresponding Turkish environmental agency. The permission for export was granted after notification and consent from the countries involved.

On August 4, the hull was taken from Brazil in good conditions of watertightness and buoyancy. Upon arriving near the Strait of Gibraltar, on the 26th of the same month, the Turkish environmental agency decided to unilaterally cancel the authorization previously granted. Based on this decision, IBAMA suspended the export permit it had issued, ordered the return of the hull to Brazil, and the hull to Brazil and notified the current owner, the Secretariat of the Basel Convention and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MRE).

During the return trip, damage to the hull was identified, affecting its watertightness and buoyancy. Currently, the hull presents progressive degradation, observed from a comparison of the inspection reports from October and December 2022, requiring additional safety measures.

Since the return of the hull, in order to make possible the repair and subsequent re-export to a shipyard certified by the European Union, the AMB has determined that the company Sök must meet the requirements for entry into inland waters, among which we highlight

  • The need to maintain P&I insurance coverage, which would be triggered to defray the cost of eventual stripping or refloating/removal (in case of sinking) and to cover a period of work moored at a given shipyard; and
  • Presentation of a contract for berthing and repairing the hull, signed with a company/shipyard capable of executing the necessary services, with respective detailed work plan and estimated time, whose terms establish the duties and responsibilities of each party, regarding surveillance and maintenance of equipment and systems, during the entire period the hull is docked/berthed

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*** Translated by the DEFCONPress FYI Team ***

By admin