Green Cross applauds key step in safe destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons
Some 560 metric tons of dangerous mustard agent and precursor chemicals for nerve agents will be placed on board a US merchant marine ship in the Italian port of Gioia Tauro this week for destruction. Green Cross International congratulates all countries and organizations involved, including Syria, Italy, Denmark, and the United States for organizing and implementing this important effort to build a world totally free of chemical weapons.
Elio Pacilio, President of Green Cross Italy in Rome, commented: “This is a major step forward in safely eliminating Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile. I want to congratulate the Italian Government, the people of Reggio Calabria, the citizens of San Ferdinando, and the port workers of Gioia Tauro for their willingness to participate in this vital step to establish a more peaceful and less dangerous Mediterranean region.”
A Danish freighter, Ark Futura, and a Norwegian freighter, Taiko, have been loading Syria’s chemicals in the Syrian port of Latakia since January 2014. The last shipment of 100 metric tons was made on 23 June. The Ark Futura will now deliver 560 metric tons of “Priority One” chemicals, including over 20 metric tons of deadly mustard agent, to the US Merchant Marine ship, the MV Cape Ray, in the southwest Italian port of Gioia Tauro this week, on 2-3 July. The Cape Ray will begin sea trials in the Mediterranean next week in order to treat these Syrian chemicals in two “Field Deployable Hydrolysis Systems (FDHS)” on board over the next 2-3 months. The Cape Ray will be protected by an international fleet of naval vessels.
Dr. Paul Walker, Director of the Green Cross Environmental Security and Sustainability Program and coordinator of the international Chemical Weapons Convention Coalition, stated: “This neutralization process on board the Cape Ray is well known and widely used in both the US, Russia, and elsewhere to mix chemical agents with hot water and a caustic agent. The chemical weapons are thereby destroyed, but a secondary process is always necessary to further eliminate the toxicity of the effluents.” This secondary process will take place in Germany, Finland, and the US when some 6,000 metric tons of effluent are delivered by these three ships.
Walker also added: “We commend all parties involved, especially the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the United Nations, the United States, and the 30 or more countries who have contributed financially and in-kind to rid the world of a dangerous chemical weapons stockpile in Syria. Once the transfer is made to the Cape Ray, we all need regular updates on the hydrolysis process, as well as updates from the land processing facilities in Finland, Germany, Britain, and the United States.”