The US Navy Military Sealift Command vessel MV Cape Ray deployed from Portsmouth, Virginia on 27 January forher unique mission to neutralise Syrian chemical weapons. The Ready Reserve Force container ship headed directly to the Italian port of Gioia Tauro, where she was to be loaded with around 700 tonnes of surrendered chemical agents.
During the following three months a stockpile of mustard gas and other chemicals, capable of producing VX and sarin nerve agents, will be rendered safe using a pair of Field Deployable Hydrolysis Systems units. The equipment heats and mixes chemical agents with water and other chemicals to significantly lower any toxicity. The inert waste material can then be destroyed in a commercial waste disposal site.
At around the same time of her departure, a second shipment of chemicals was being loaded onto Danish and Norwegian ships at Latakia in Syria. The security of MV Taiko and MV Ark Futura and their cargo is being undertaken by a number of navies. The Russia Navy has a five-ship task force in the Mediterranean, headed by the missile cruiser, Pyotr Veliky. Other escorts include the Norwegian frigate HNoMS Helge Ingstad, Danish support ship HMDS Esbern Snare, HMS Montrose and the Chinese frigate, Yan Cheng.
A target date of 30 June has been set for the total destruction of all Syria’s chemical weapons materials by the UN and Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.