Ex-Foch of the French Navy, the aircraft carrier São Paulo, of the Brazilian Navy, had its auction suspended last month. The Brazilian government plans to bid on the case of the vessel, which was decommissioned in 2018 after years of problems.

Built in France, the ship was launched into the sea in 1960 and served with the country’s navy under the name FS Foch from 1963 to 2000. With 32,800 tons of displacement and 265 meters in length, aircraft carriers acted in conflicts in Africa, the Middle East and Europe and was one of the few ships to have steam catapults other than the US fleet.

In 2000, Brazil paid $12 million for Foch and renamed it São Paulo, the country’s largest state. The vessel arrived in Rio de Janeiro in February 2001 to replace Minas Gerais, an aircraft carrier of the British Colossus class.

In the Brazilian Navy, the ship had a short and very troubled career, marked by a series of mechanical problems and accidents. Because of these mishaps, the ship spent more time stopped than sailing. There were only 206 days at sea covering a distance of 54,024.6 miles (85,334 km) and making 566 takeoffs of AF-1 fighters, Brazilian designation for McDonnell Douglas A-4 Skyhawk, today operated from land bases.

In February 2017, after abandoning an upgrade project, the naval command decided to deactivate the NAe São Paulo the following year and put it up for sale as scrap.

In July, Mediterranean Ships Breaking was the only company to be accredited for the auction, while seven other competitors were discarded for not fully complying with the requirements of the notice.

AF-1 (A-4) fighter (Rob Schleiffert)

Heavy metals

When France sold the Foch to Brazil, it would have conditioned the agreement to the future dismantling of the vessel so as not to harm the environment. According to information, there are about 900 tonnes of asbestos and heavy metals in its structure and for this reason French authorities are asking for the ship to be dismantled at a European Union shipyard, qualified for this purpose.

The fear is that something similar to other ships of this size may occur, such as Minas Gerais itself, which was sent to India, where these vessels are dismantled precariously. The Brazilian Navy has not explained the reason for the suspension or even when the bidding will resume.