Cape Ray Completes Chemical Neutralization


September 2014


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SIU-crewed ship finishes safely, efficiently and ahead of schedule.

Wrapping up safely and ahead of schedule, the SIU-crewed Cape Ray on Aug. 18 completed the task of eliminating Syria’s declared weapons stockpile, a process which began in early July. Along with more than 60 chemical weapons specialists from the U.S. Army, security personnel and representatives from the U.S. European Command, the crew of 36 helped dispose of 600-plus tons of methylphosphonyl difluoride (DF), a sarin precursor, as well as sulfur mustard (HD). It is believed to have been the first time chemical weapons were neutralized at sea.


The effort of the mariners and others aboard the Keystone-operated ship generated praise from President Barack Obama.


“Today we mark an important achievement in our ongoing effort to counter the spread of weapons of mass destruction by eliminating Syria’s declared chemical weapons stockpile,” the president said in a written statement issued Aug. 18. “The most lethal declared chemical weapons possessed by the Syrian regime were destroyed by dedicated U.S. civilian and military professionals using a unique American capability aboard the M/V Cape Ray – and they did so aboard that U.S. vessel several weeks ahead of schedule.”


Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel also conveyed his congratulations to the crew. According to a Pentagon news release also posted on Aug. 18, Hagel “called Navy Captain Rich Dromerhauser aboard the M/V Cape Ray to congratulate the ship’s crew on finishing their unprecedented work of neutralizing, at sea, the most dangerous chemicals in Syria’s declared stockpile. The secretary said that by ridding the world of these materials, they – as part of an ongoing international effort to eliminate the Syrian chemical weapons arsenal – have helped make an important and enduring contribution to global security.”


The statement continued, “Secretary Hagel expressed his gratitude for the crew’s service, dedication, and expertise, noting that with the world watching, they performed flawlessly every step of the way – despite a very long deployment, and a complex operation that required careful coordination with our international partners. The secretary commended the crew for conducting every aspect of the mission in a highly professional manner, with strict adherence to safety and with no impact to the surrounding environment, and said that they should all be very proud of what they’ve accomplished to help reduce the threat posed by chemical weapons.”


Additionally, Maritime Administrator Chip Jaenichen offered his praise of the crew.

“The Maritime Administration (MARAD) is proud to support the international effort to destroy Syrian chemical weapons and agents by providing the M/V Cape Ray and its all-volunteer U.S. Merchant Marine crew to support this critical mission,” Jaenichen said. “One of MARAD’s 46 Ready Reserve Force (RRF) ships that stand ready to provide rapid movement of equipment and supplies during times of national and humanitarian emergencies, this vessel and its crew illustrate the important contribution our RRF ships and mariners make in supporting U.S. national and economic security.”


At press time, the vessel was travelling to Finland and Germany to unload the resulting effluent, which will undergo treatment as industrial waste to render it safer, a Pentagon spokeswoman said.

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