The "Cape Ray" returned home to Portsmouth on Sep 17 after a successful mission. Part of the U.S. Department of Transportation's Ready Reserve Force, the 650-foot Cape Ray was activated in December and fitted with specialized equipment for neutralizing more than 500 metric tons of sarin gas precursor and sulfur mustard. The ship left Portsmouth with a staff of 35 civilian mariners, most of them from Hampton Roads. The crew spent months waiting in port in southern Spain because Syria's government missed deadlines to hand over the chemicals. Once the material was on board, dozens of chemical engineers did the work of destroying it while the ship was at sea. International monitors and extra security personnel were also aboard.
Once the chemicals were neutralized, the "Cape Ray" offloaded waste in Norway and Bremerhaven. The mission lasted so long that replacements took over for all but a handful of the crew. A few, though, were there through it all. Crew members will spend about a month dismantling and removing the equipment that was brought aboard the ship in 2013 before the "Cape Ray" can be back in her original Ready Reserve Force status.
Report with photos: