Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby this week announced the departure of M/V Cape Ray, the 650-foot long vessel involved in the neutralization of Syrian chemical weapons at sea, first to Italy and then on to international waters to conduct its mission.
The M/V Cape Ray departed Rota, Spain on June 25, 2014 enroute to the port of Gioia Tauro, Italy, where the ship will receive declared Syrian chemical weapons transferred from the Danish vessel Ark Futura. The transit to Italy is expected to take several days.
“After the transfer is complete, the Cape Ray will depart Gioia Tauro for international waters to begin neutralization of the chemical agents using the embarked field deployable hydrolysis system,” states Kirby. “Neutralization will be conducted in a safe and environmentally sound manner. Nothing from this operation will be released into the environment.”
The system uses a tested method of adding water and neutralizer to a chemical to remove its effectiveness, a process already used by the U.S. Department of Defense in its own chemical weapons elimination program, to destroy hundreds of tons of deadly mustard and nerve agents. While the process does produce a caustic effluent, comparable to a powerful drain cleaner, the chemical agent is rendered basically useless and impossible to reconstitute as a deadly weapon again.
The Cape Ray and the field deployable hydrolysis system are part of the United States’ contribution to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons – U.N. Joint Mission to eliminate Syria’s declared chemical materials stockpile.