The American ship MV Cape Ray arrived Thursday at the Spanish naval base of Rota for crew rest and refuelling ahead of an unprecedented mission to collect and destroy highly toxic substances that form part of Syria’s chemical weapons programme.

The ship, which left Portsmouth, Virginia Jan. 27, will leave Rota when Syria has completed removal of its chemical materials and proceed to the transloading port in Italy, Defence Department spokesman Col. Steve Warren said in a statement.

WHAT IS THE MV CAPE RAY?

It is a giant U.S. government cargo ship, usually based in Virginia, which has been fitted with two machines designed to neutralize hundreds of tons of the most toxic chemicals, including mustard gas and the raw materials for sarin nerve gas, that are being removed from Syria as part of the international effort to destroy its chemical weapons programme by mid-year.

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