A load of toxic chemicals from Syria used in connection with the creation of chemical weapons is on its way to be destroyed at sea. The Syrian government agreed to the removal of the chemicals after a chemical weapons attack last August killed hundreds of people on the outskirts of Damascus. Neither the Syrian government nor the opposition leaders have admitted responsibility for the attack. The goal of the operation is to remove and destroy nearly 1,300 tons of chemical weapons located in facilities throughout Syria.
The chemicals to be destroyed were loaded onto the Cape Ray, a United States vessel specially equipped for this type of operation. Two pieces of equipment, known as Field Deployable Hydrolysis Systems, have been installed on the Cape Ray that will be used to render the chemicals harmless once the ship has reached international waters. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has been helping oversee the project and commented that it would take about sixty days to complete the neutralization of the chemicals.
The Cape Ray docked at the port of Gioia Tauro in southern Italy to receive the load from the Ark Futura, a Dutch vessel. The Ark Futura brought the sensitive cargo onboard more than a week ago at the Syrian port of Latakia. Security officials sealed off the dock and the surrounding area during the loading process to create a secure location for the transfer.
The chemicals, which include mustard gas and raw materials for the nerve agent sarin, are the last of the known supplies of chemical substances in Syria. The removal of the chemical supplies has been hailed as a major achievement for the country. The next step in the process is for the Syrian authorities to dismantle the facilities throughout the country that were used for making and mixing chemical weapons.