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The converted merchant ship Cape Ray departed from Portsmouth, Va., on Jan. 27, heading for the Mediterranean Sea where it will aid US and international efforts to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile. The process is part of an agreement with the Syrian government to turn over its weapons for destruction by June 30. The US military chemical experts and other personnel on board are tasked with neutralizing nerve agents and other deadly chemicals in international waters using hydrolysis technology. The Department of Defense has spent several months working to prepare the ship for this mission. “You are about to accomplish something no one has tried. You will be destroying, at sea, one of the world’s largest stockpiles of chemical weapons and helping make a safer world,” said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in a message to the crew. “As you all know, your task will not be easy. Your days will be long and rigorous. But, your hard work, preparation, and dedication will make the difference.” The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons will oversee the process, and all waste from the procedure will be properly disposed of at commercial facilities designated by the international organization, according to a DOD release.