Syrian chemical weapons arrive in Calabria for destruction

Ark Futura’s toxic cargo will be transferred to US ship and brought to sea for neutralisation

A container is moved from the Danish ship ‘Ark Futura’, carrying a cargo of Syria’s chemical weapons, after it arrived at Gioia Tauro port in southern Italy. Photograph: Ciro De Luca/Reuters

A container is moved from the Danish ship ‘Ark Futura’, carrying a cargo of Syria’s chemical weapons, after it arrived at Gioia Tauro port in southern Italy. Photograph: Ciro De Luca/Reuters

Thu, Jul 3, 2014, 01:00

The complex process of destroying Syria’s arsenal of chemical weapons took an important step forward when the Danish vessel, Ark Futura, arrived in the Calabrian port of Gioia Tauro yesterday carrying 20 tons worth of containers of mustard and nerve gas, destined for destruction.

Yesterday’s delivery comes within the context of the UN, US and Russia backed deal brokered last year which saw Syria agree to the destruction of its chemical weapons stockpile.

Most of the dangerously toxic cargo on the Ark Futura will be transferred to the US ship, the Cape Ray, which will then sail out to sea to begin the process of hydrolysis, or the neutralisation of the chemical weapons.

Over the next few months, the US boat, which is equipped with a FDHS (Field Deployable Hydrolysis System) will break down the chemical agents with the use of hot water and caustic soda. After this, any remaining waste will be buried on land at purpose-built facilities.

International security Italian environment minister, Gian Luca Galletti, expressed his satisfaction yesterday with Italy’s “contribution to international security”, adding that the operation was being carried out “professionally” and that it was environmentally safe.

His last remark may have been in response to a protest yesterday by a small number of citizens from the Gioia Tauro area who carried banners reading: “You Are Trying To Kill Us By Giving Us Tumours”.

Trade unionist, Domenico Macri, who works in the port, told newsagency AFP that he was worried about the transfer operation from one ship to another.

“This is not a routine operation, it’s a military operation and we are very worried,” he said.

“If there’s an accident or a container breaks or falls, the substances which would leak out could do serious damage.”

Cocaine

Ironically, Gioia Tauro is a port which has long made headlines in relation to another toxic cargo, namely shipments of cocaine.

Mafia writer, Roberto Saviano, in his most recent book Zero, Zero, Zero, claims that the ‘nDrangheta, the Calabrian mafia – which has historic links with both Colombian and Mexican crime syndicates – has brought thousands of tons of cocaine into Europe via shipments into Gioia Tauro over the last 30 years.