An American ship in a Virginia port has been prepped and is mission-ready, awaiting orders that may come in the next two weeks, to fulfill the U.S. offer to help destroy Syrian chemical weapons.
In early December 2013, the U.S. Department of Defense announced that it had offered a technical solution to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons for removing and destroying Syria's chemical weapons. The weapons to be destroyed will, according to DOD, include mustard gas and nerve agent sarin and VX components.
The stockpile, in bulk liquid storage, will be neutralized aboard a specially-outfitted ship. Neutralization occurs when the chemicals are mixed with water and sodium hypochlorite bleach to produce a very low-level waste. OPCW inspectors will be aboard the ship to verify the chemical weapons have been neutralized.
The Department of Transportation Maritime Administration's vessel, the Cape Ray, has been outfitted for the mission. Ship captain Rick Jordan has not yet been given orders to deploy, nor does he know the exact location for the neutralization operation.
State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf told reporters on Thursday that the Cape Ray will depart in the next two weeks. Harf described the roles of other countries in the neutralization operation.
Danish and Norwegian ships with Finnish support are in Cyprus ready to leave for the port to load the bulk agent for removal from Syria. Russia and China will help to provide security in Syrian territorial waters for the Marine loading operation. The Italian Government has also made available a port in which to conduct trans-loading operations from the Danish ship to the Cape Ray, and the United Kingdom has agreed to destroy a portion of the precursor chemicals through commercial incineration. So a lot of people are pitching in. It’s a massive effort. If you think six months ago they didn’t even admit they had chemical weapons, now we have a massive international effort to destroy them, and we’ve seen progress. I think we’re getting there.
In September 2013, the U.S. and Russia submitted a proposal that was accepted by the OPCW that laid out the specific procedures for the destruction of Syrian chemical weapons by mid-2014.
[Defense Department] [New York Times] [State Department]