Cape Ray Continues with Syrian Mission


May 2014


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After traveling across the Atlantic on a ship outfitted with millions of dollars’ worth of state-of-the-art equipment, the Seafarers aboard the MV Cape Ray spent April in Europe preparing to receive and destroy Syrian chemical weapons.


Docked in Rota, Spain, since February, the Cape Ray was set to travel to the Italian port of Gioia Tauro to receive the chemical weapons from Danish and Norwegian cargo ships. From there, the vessel will take the weapons to international waters in the Mediterranean for destruction.


According to news reports, destruction of the weapons could begin as early as this month (May).


As previously reported, the Keystone-operated, SIU-crewed containership left Portsmouth, Va., in January. Its crew includes 36 civilian mariners, more than 60 U.S. Army chemical weapons specialists, a security team and representatives from U.S. European command. Members of the Machinists union were on board, too.


The Cape Ray’s deployment followed an international agreement in August to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons. That agreement came about after the Syrian government allegedly used the weapons against its own people last year.


Following the deployment, the crew of the Cape Ray received praise from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and other high-ranking Defense Department (DOD) officials. Speaking to the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities in April, a pair of top defense representatives commended the job being done by the crew of the Cape Ray.


“When the international community failed to identify a nation willing to host destruction operations for the most dangerous chemicals, a full-court press was employed to develop a ship-based destruction option only 60 days from the word ‘go,’” said Kenneth Myers, director of the DOD’s Defense Threat Reduction Agency. “I am proud to say that the Motor Vessel Cape Ray, the ship that houses two field-deployable hydrolysis systems, stands ready to begin destruction of a large portion of these chemical weapons once they are taken out of Syria.”


Rebecca Hersman, deputy assistant secretary of defense for countering weapons of mass destruction, also touted the Cape Ray’s importance when addressing the subcommittee.


“This maritime Ready Reserve Force vessel … is manned by the finest experts from our operational and technical communities,” she said. “This unprecedented international effort demonstrates the ability of DOD, other U.S. departments and agencies, and our international partners to develop innovative solutions to complex problems.”


Those statements followed a press release from Hagel praising the crew of the Cape Ray for “accomplish(ing) something no one has tried” and helping to make the world safer.”


According to the United Nations, Syria faced an April 27 deadline to remove all chemical agents from the country. The deadline to have those weapons destroyed is June 30.


The SIU crew aboard the Cape Ray as of mid-April included: Bosun William Lima, ABs Walter Ott, Jonathan Davis, George Phillips, Mark Brownell and Jerry Sobieraj, QEEs Kevin Quinlan and Mark Maduro, QE4 Jason Billingsley, Oiler Andre Mitchell, GVA Dionta Winstead, Steward/ Baker Edward Banks, Chief Cooks Mike Adorno, Helen Mitchell, Emanuel Spain and Sandra Vann, and SAs Cornelius Taylor, Arica Shaw, Kevin Arroyo and Emanuel Spain.



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