Cape Ray to set sail for chemical weapons disposal mission

Pictured is the Cape Ray docked at the NASSCO-Earl Shipyard in Portsmouth, Va., January 2, 2014. The Cape Ray is being utilized as a transport vessel for a Field Deployable Hydrolysis System designed to render chemical warfare material into compounds not usable as weapons.

WASHINGTON — The MV Cape Ray will soon set sail on a mission to destroy Syria’s stockpile of mustard gas and chemicals that can be used to produce VX and sarin nerve agents, the Pentagon said Monday.

The Cape Ray houses the new Field Deployable Hydrolysis System, which was built last year when Defense Department officials anticipated that a mobile system would eventually be needed to neutralize Syria’s chemical weapons and their precursors.

The Cape Ray just completed its final round of sea trials. During the trials, the crew and the FDHS operators evaluated the ship and the FDHS at various sea states. They conducted training drills and assessed all systems aboard. The Cape Ray is scheduled to return to port in Portsmouth, Va., on Tuesday for final outfitting, and it will be prepared to depart late this week or early next week, said Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren.

The Cape Ray will pick up the Syrian chemicals at an undisclosed port in Italy and then sail into international waters where the FDHS will neutralize the materials with water and bleach. The mission is part of an international disarmament effort led by the United Nations and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

The transit time from Portsmouth to Italy will be about two weeks, Warren said.

Part of the Syrian stockpile was loaded onto a Danish vessel at the Syrian port of Latakia last week, according to the OPCW. When the full stockpile has been surrendered to the international community, it will be shipped to Italy where it will be transferred to the Cape Ray.

“The Cape Ray will be prepared to wait until the chemical weapons are ready to be brought on board,” Warren said.

Twitter: @JHarperStripes

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