Just before being "armed" in 1963, the aircraft carrier "Foch", the last flagship of the French Navy, had the honors of the Comédie-Française.
In front of an audience of 1,300 sailors and officers, three hundred shipyard workers and engineers, the troupe performed Feydeau and a play by Molière.
A celebration with great pomp for the twin of the "Clemenceau".
After forty years of career and twenty years of slow agony, the curtain has fallen and the time is no longer for the blare of the party: the "Foch", passed under the Brazilian flag in 2000, was quite simply scuttled by 5000 m deep in the abyss of the Atlantic.
This ship, 265 m long and 25,000 tons, renamed "São Paulo", is however a "floating dump", according to the environmental association Robin des Bois, which denounces a "heresy".
"It contains PCBs
in the sheaths of electrical cables, paints, rubber seals, linoleum-type coverings, electronic boards, but also paint and hydrocarbon residues, thousands of mercury fluorescent tubes and fire detectors with radioactive microsources, batteries and hydrocarbon waste”, lists the NGO.
Not to mention asbestos residues in the 17.5 km of piping with insulation, 2.8 km of ventilation ducts, 2,380 m2 of insulating walls and 3,920 m2 of mattresses installed in fireproof partitions.
An environmental “heresy”
Don't throw any more.
Several environmental associations simply believe that sinking the building is an “environmental crime”.
“Under the action of erosion, flakes of asbestos and pellets of hydrocarbons will disintegrate in the water column, contaminate an abyssal plain with exceptional fauna and flora and impact marine mammals because it It's a big migration corridor for humpback whales,” sighs Jacky Bonnemains, president of Robin des Bois, and a fine connoisseur of a file he has been following for many years.
The Brazilian Navy, however, justifies its decision by an environmental imperative.
“Faced with the risks involved in towing and because of the degradation of the hull (…), the only solution is to abandon the hull by sinking it in a controlled manner”, explain the authorities, who plan to carry out the operation. 350 km off the coast.
The last scuttling of the same type took place in 2006 in the Gulf of Mexico.
The "USS Oriskany" had been sunk in a depth of 60 m.
"But it had been partly cleaned before" specifies Jacky Bonnemains, who evokes for the "Foch" an operation involving "around thirty explosive charges, and therefore several hundred kilos of dynamite".
20 years of ordeal
Sad end for the former giant of the seas, which had participated in the first French nuclear experimentation campaign in the Pacific, had been involved in operations in the former Yugoslavia, and had even hosted a concert by Johnny Hallyday in 1988!
But his destiny had been derailed for many years.
"When Brazil bought it in 2000, it was already out of breath," says Robin des Bois.
Its second career, punctuated by fires, did not exceed 200 days at sea, and quickly the army, unable to incur the costs of renovation, no longer knew what to do with these 25,000 tons of steel which rusted and took the water.
Some imagine transforming the former "Foch", decommissioned in 2017, into a luxury resort with a hotel and shopping center.
Too big and too expensive dreams for this military building that no one wants to dismantle in the end.
Not even the Turkish deconstruction site which had finally bought it, before Ankara prohibited access to its waters last August… because of asbestos.
Returning to Rio, then diverted a little further north on the Brazilian coast, the ship had been "wandering for six months", adds the associative activist, who understands that the Brazilian navy only took it in tow. a fortnight ago.
Could France have intervened?
The end of life of the "Foch" is reminiscent of that of the "Clemenceau", tossed from sea to ocean between India, South Africa and the Suez Canal before finally being dismantled in 2010 in the Kingdom -United.
But "unlike the
the wanderings of the
ended badly with a practice of scuttling that we thought was over," regrets Jacky Bonnemains.
"By sinking this highly toxic boat in the middle of the Atlantic, they are violating three international environmental treaties without any good reason", fulminates Jim Puckett, director of the Basel Action Network (BAN).
Could France intervene?
Jacky Bonnemains recognizes that she has a form of expertise in this area.
“The French Navy is making great efforts to demolish and recycle its end-of-life ships in Bordeaux, Brest or Le Havre, and there are now a few dozen approved shipyards in Europe.
The closest EU approved shipyard to Brazil is located in Brownsville, Texas.
"Without an express solution quickly released, the aircraft carrier's demolition site will be... the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean," Jacky Bonnemains told us on Friday.
It is now done.