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M/V Cape Ray Pauses in Spain Due to Syrian Delays

After sailing for the Italian port of Gioia Tauro on Jan. 27, the M/V Cape Ray has been delayed in Rota, Spain. The delay has nothing to do with the Cape Ray and everything to do with Syrian delays in shipping its chemical weapons stockpiles from Latakia, Syria.

“When Syria has completed removal of its chemical weapons materials, M/V Cape Ray will depart Rota and proceed to the transloading port in Italy, where she will take the chemicals on board.”

The Cape Ray, part of the Maritime Administration‘s Ready Reserve Force, departed Portsmouth, Va., after several months of preparation by hundreds of government and contract personnel. Now, that mission is at a standstill. “When Syria has completed removal of its chemical weapons materials, M/V Cape Ray will depart Rota and proceed to the transloading port in Italy, where she will take the chemicals on board,” U.S. Army Col. Steve Warren, a U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) spokesman, said.

M/V Cape Ray

The M/V Cape Ray will remain docked in Rota, Spain, until all of Syria’s chemical weapons are removed and ready for disposal. U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Mikel Bookwalter

The mission of the Cape Ray is to neutralize Syrian chemical weapons and precursors via two Field Deployable Hydrolysis Systems (FDHS). “Our ship is prepared and our crew is trained to safely neutralize Syria’s chemical materials,” said Warren. The Cape Ray will use the FDHS at sea in international waters to destroy 700 metic tons of Syrian chemical agents. Resulting effluent will be disposed of by a yet to be selected private company. No byproducts from the hydrolysis process will be released into the sea or air.

“We stand ready to fulfill our contributions to this international effort; it is time for Syria to live up to their obligations to the international community.”

The pause at Rota was also an opportunity for the DoD to urge Syria to live up to its agreement to destroy its chemical weapons stockpiles. “We stand ready to fulfill our contributions to this international effort; it is time for Syria to live up to their obligations to the international community,” said Warren.

M/V Cape Ray

The M/V Cape Ray has been modified to carry two Field Deployable Hydrolysis Systems (FDHS) that will be used to destroy 700 metic tons of Syrian chemical agents in international waters. U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Mikel Bookwalter

According to the U.S. Embassy in Madrid, Spain’s offering of the use of the port of Rota is a contribution to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons – United Nations Joint Mission for the Elimination of the Chemical Weapons Programme of the Syrian Arab Republic (OPCW-UN Joint Mission in Syria).

“A significant effort is needed to ensure the chemicals that still remain in Syria are removed – in accordance with a concrete schedule and without further delays – consistent with the obligations of the Syrian Arab Republic deriving from the OPCW Executive Council decisions and U.N. Security Council Resolution 2118.”

The Cape Ray’s layover in Rota may be short however, as a third shipment of chemical weapons departed Syria on Feb. 10 aboard a Norwegian cargo vessel. The Norwegian ship was  bound for Gioia Tauro with a naval escort made up of ships from China, Demark, Norway, and Russia, the United Kingdom joined the escort once the ship reached international waters. This shipment was hailed, along with the recent destruction of 93 percent of Syria’s stock of isopropanol, by OPCW Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü, who urged Syria to pick up the pace. “A significant effort is needed to ensure the chemicals that still remain in Syria are removed – in accordance with a concrete schedule and without further delays – consistent with the obligations of the Syrian Arab Republic deriving from the OPCW Executive Council decisions and U.N. Security Council Resolution 2118,” Üzümcü said in a statement.

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Steven Hoarn is the Editor/Photo Editor for Defense Media Network. He is a graduate of...