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Scuttling of the Foch in the Atlantic: what consequences for the environment?


FOCUS - Environmental defense associations evoke a "crime" and a "disaster" for marine biodiversity after the "planned sinking" of the ship renamed Sao Polo after its sale to Brazil

The long wandering of the former flagship of the French Navy ended this Friday, February 3.

The Brazilian sailors sent the aircraft carrier Foch to the bottom, claiming that they no longer had a choice given the very degraded state of the old hull.

Its wreck now lies 5000 meters deep, in the heart of the Atlantic.

The associations for the protection of the seabed and the defense of the environment had nevertheless warned.

The scuttling of this

"toxic package of 30,000 tonnes",

as the Robin des Bois association described it, is a real "

crime against the environment


The gigantic military ship indeed contained a lot of toxic materials and in particular "

9.6 tons of asbestos, a substance with toxic and carcinogenic potential, as well as 644 tons of paint and other dangerous materials",

had alerted the federal ministry of the Brazil which multiplied the recourses to try to stop the operation, in vain.

Read alsoFoch aircraft carrier: splendors and miseries of the former glory of the French Navy


There are 17km of piping insulated with asbestos and around ten kilometers of PCB sheaths

", details for

Le Figaro

the Robin des Bois association, which is based on the inventory carried out on the Clemenceau, the


of the Foch .

, during her dismantling in the United Kingdom.

We are also talking about hectares of coatings, varnishes, lead paint, etc.


Organisms destroyed

To what extent do all these toxic substances represent a danger for the environment?

The Robin des Bois association assesses this "

environmental disaster

" in two stages.


There is first of all the immediate time, this night, today and tomorrow when an entire abyssal community and a formidable quantity of organisms are destroyed

", we explain.


And it comes at the wrong time


Because it is true that the international community is increasingly mobilizing for the protection of the seabed.

Brazil in particular, with other Latin American countries, is pushing to establish a whaling sanctuary, precisely in the vicinity of the scuttling of the Foch.

But the consequences of the scuttling of the aircraft carrier will be assessed especially over the long term.


The more time passes, the more the wreck will decompose, with all its toxic products which will decompose

", indicates the Robin des Bois association.


The materials thus broken down into dust and scales will become available for fish and marine mammals, and a large amount of residue will also aggregate with plankton and contaminate countless marine resources


On large military buildings such as the Foch aircraft carrier, we must not forget the staggering quantities of hydrocarbons and other lubricants, which the dismantling sites pump out meticulously before starting their work.

If Brazil has undoubtedly taken some precautions, “

there are obviously residues

”, estimates the association.

Aging wrecks

And this problem has often resurfaced several decades later for ships dating from the Second World War or even the war of 14-18.

The wreck of the British tanker SS El Grillo, among other examples, sunk in 1944, required several operations of pumping and extraction of hydrocarbons and ammunition.

If 2000 tons have been extracted, tanks still remain and continue to leak intermittently as corrosion eats away at the hull.

Read alsoDrones to secure the deep seabed

The older the wrecks, the more they become fragile and can be potentially polluting.

The decomposition is slower at great depth because the water temperature is lower, but it is inevitable


Despite its impressive 264 meters, can't the Foch be compared to a drop of pollution in the immensity of the Atlantic Ocean?


It is added to thousands of other wrecks

", we answer at Robin des Bois.

Warships, freighters, oil tankers, chemical tankers… “

Over time, and under the combined effect of corrosion and currents, these wrecks become fragile and can release their contents into the marine environment.

Scientists are sounding the alarm and urging states to act in the face of 'these ecological time bombs'

", noted the

Revue de Défense Nationale

in an article published in 2020.

Source: lefigaro

All tech articles on 2023-02-04

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