MV Cape Ray (T-AKR-9679) — the U.S. ship equipped to chemical weapons turned over by the Syrian regime — left Virginia Monday bound for the Mediterranean, according to the Pentagon.
When Cape Ray arrives — in about two weeks — the ship will transfer approximately 700 tons of chemical weapons at the Italian port of Gioia Tauro and.
Once in position, Cape Ray will use a U.S. Army Field Deployable Hydrolysis System to neutralize the stockpiles set up in the ship’s hold.
Calling the deployment of the ship a “historic mission,” Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel issued a message to the ship’s crew.
“You are about to accomplish something no one has tried. You will be destroying, at sea, one of the world’s largest stockpiles of chemical weapons and helping make a safer world,” Hagel wrote.
The operation will be overseen by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
“All waste from the hydrolysis process on Cape Ray will be safely and properly disposed of at commercial facilities to be determined by the OPCW. No hydrolysis byproducts will be released into the sea or air,” according to a Monday statement from the Defense Department.
Syria is required to give up its chemical weapons under U.N. Security Council resolution 2118. The resolution was imposed after the Syrian government appeared to have used nerve gas on rebel forces in 2013 during the country’s ongoing civil war.