The United States M/V Cape Ray, a 35,000 ton cargo ship has been outfitted with two Field Deployable Hydrolysis Systems used to for the processing of chemical weapons, 560 tons of chemicals including 21 tons of mustard gas are to be trans-loaded aboard the ship.

The time it will take to "neutralise" Syria's chemical stocks depends on how calm the seas are, using hot water and "reagents" to break down the dangerous compounds.

The whole process will be closely monitored by OPCW inspectors who say it will be done safely and in an environmentally secure way. The resulting effluent will then be taken to Bremen in Germany and Kotka in Finland for commercial destruction.

Several Mediterranean countries have expressed concern at the prospect of such dangerous chemicals being transported and processed close to their coasts. But both the US navy's Rear-Admiral Bob Burke and OPCW spokesman Michael Luhan said they did not anticipate any leaks at all.

"Letting chemicals escape from this process," said Mr Luhan, "would be like trying to break out of a maximum security prison."

Syria has until April 27 to deliver its remaining stock of chemicals to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and they are behind schedule. The date set for beginning the process of neutralizing those chemicals is June 30 and the work is expected to take two months.

Source: BBC News