US prepares ship to destroy Syrian chemical arms

2013-12-03 10:13
Sigrid Kaag, the Special co-ordinator of the joint mission between the OPCW and the UN, overseeing the destruction of Syria’s chemical stockpiles. (Louai Beshara, AFP)

Sigrid Kaag, the Special co-ordinator of the joint mission between the OPCW and the UN, overseeing the destruction of Syria’s chemical stockpiles. (Louai Beshara, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Washington - The US military has begun outfitting a ship with special equipment that will be used to destroy part of Syria's chemical arsenal, the Pentagon said on Monday.

A hydrolysis unit is being installed on the MV Cape Ray, a 200m cargo ship, which would be employed to neutralise some of Syria's lethal chemical agents, a spokesperson said.

"We are preparing the Cape Ray to be part of the destruction process if we're tasked with that mission," Colonel Steven Warren told reporters.

The ship, part of a reserve fleet used to help transport military hardware at short notice, is currently undergoing modifications at the naval port of Norfolk in Virginia, he said.

The US military had yet to receive formal orders to carry out the job but is "conducting prudent planning," he added.

The Pentagon acknowledged the preparations after the world's chemical watchdog agency, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, said on Saturday that an American ship would help destroy the most dangerous of Syria's chemical agents.

Toxic waste

US naval ships and aircraft would likely help provide security during the destruction effort at sea, according to two defence officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Under an international agreement brokered to avoid US military strikes on Damascus, Syria's most dangerous chemical weapons have to be out of the country by a 31 December deadline.

Officials said the US ship would be equipped with a field deployable hydrolysis system, a new mobile unit developed by the Pentagon earlier this year.

Hydrolysis involves breaking down a lethal chemical agent such as mustard gas with hot water and other compounds, which results in a sludge equivalent to industrial toxic waste.

Joint mission

Sigrid Kaag, the top UN official from the joint UN-OPCW mission, on Saturday confirmed the role of a US ship to dilute the chemical agents and said the resulting by-products would be destroyed by private firms.

"The chemical effluents, what is left when destroyed, will be treated in countries through a number of companies," she told reporters in Damascus.

The US vessel "will not be in Syrian territorial waters," she added.

The OPCW has turned to the US military for assistance after no country volunteered to destroy the chemical weapons on its soil, despite an international consensus that the weapons be neutralised outside of Syria.

Destroying the chemical agents at sea offers political and practical advantages, as no government has to face domestic criticism for allowing the hazardous work inside its borders, experts said.

Read more on:    un  |  opcw  |  syria  |  us  |  nuclear  |  security

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.