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Two ships loaded Syria’s chemical weapons to be buried off Crete; Greeks protest

More than one thousand of chemical agents, Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal, are ready to be destroyed in international waters international waters in the Mediterranean Sea between Greece, Malta and Italy. The complex international process of decommissioning the hazardous chemical weapons sarin,  mustard gas and sulphur  organized by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).


The first stage of  destroying Syria’s chemical weapons has reportedly already begun with the aid of Norway, Denmark, Russia, China, Finland, UK and USA, among others.

According to UK daily Telegraph,

The first batch of the country’s chemicals safely loaded aboard a Danish cargo ship in the northwest Syrian port of Lattakia.

The chemicals at 12 sites across Syria, two of which are in the middle of battlefields, and transporting them to the port. This is the responsibility of the Syrian army, which will be guarded en route by armoured trucks provided by Russia.

They are then loaded on to two cargo ships provided by Denmark and Norway, which have also supplied naval vessels to escort the ships out of Syrian waters. Additional security at the port is being provided by Russian forces, while the US has supplied loading and decontamination equipment, China has supplied ambulances, and Finland has supplied an emergency response team in case of accidents.

The Danish cargo ship carrying the first batch of chemicals has now moved back out into international waters to wait for more chemicals to arrive at the port in Lattakia. Once the cargo ship has taken onboard its full consignment it will set sail for an unnamed port in Italy, protected by a flotilla of naval vessels from Denmark, Norway, Russia and China.

When the flotilla arrives at its destination in Italy it will transfer its cargo of priority one checmicals to a US Maritime Administration ship, the MV Cape Ray. Around 150 tonnes of priority two chemicals, toxic material not disimilar to industrial chemical agents, will be transported to the UK with the help of the Royal Navy and destroyed by a commercial company in the UK. The Foreign Office estimates the cost at less than £1 million.

US Military personnel will break them down in field stations on the ships’ internal trailer deck. (full story Telegraph)

And bury them into the Mediterranean Sea.

Τhe graveyard of highly toxic weapons will be off Crete, west from the Chania prefecture. Reason enough for Cretans in particular and Greek sin general to protest the process claiming environmental reasons. An international petition against the dumping of the Syrian chemicals in the Mediterranean Seas has already been set up in the petition website

“Dumping of 800 tonnes of chemical weapons treated with hydrolysis in the Mediterranean will cause serious pollution, environmental degradation and severe threats to public health. It does not respect local societies, international conventions and very valuable ecosystems and marine species present in the area.” (read and sign petition here)

Speaking to defense news website, a Greek official said he couldn’t believe that any scientist at the OPCW would like to poison a broader area among so many countries.

But Greek experts doubt that the hydrolysis method is secure enough.

Ark Futura Syria chemicals loading

According to Cretan website, it were two cargo ships that already loaded chemicals from Latakia port of Syria: ARK Futura with Danish flag and TAIKO with Norwegian flag.

“Once loaded the two ships left towards Cyprus under the escort of UN ships.

The loading process was taking place under highest secrecy, that the ships had turned off the Automatic Identification System (AIS) and therefore they had disappeared from the marine traffic vessel position maps,” notes obtained also several pictures from the loading of Syrian chemicals from the Royal Navy of Denmark.

See more on Destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons here

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  1. This is completely illegal under the the provisions of MARPOL, the International Maritime Organisation’s Convention, adopted by all relevant States, for the prevention of pollution at sea. Under the provisions of MARPOL, the Mediterranean Sea is deemed a “Special Area” where the dumping of any noxious substance has been prohibited since 2009. We need a decent maritime lawyer on the case. There are many in Greece.

    • keeptalkinggreece

      good to hear! I hope some organizations will hire some lawyers to deal with the case. Thanks Nick.

  2. I will certainly sign the petition as this would be simply criminal in all respects.
    BUT I would like to point out that the telegraph story does NOT end with

    “US Military personnel will break them down in field stations on the ships’ internal trailer deck -and bury them into the Mediterranean Sea.”

    So, did the Telegraph remove the sentence or did add it ?

    • no, the telegraph story is much longer, and yes, the “…” was mistakenly put in a wrong position. correct is : “US military….deck” (full story tele…) . And bury them into….

  3. Lets hope common sense prevails and that the Syrian weapons can be decomissioned and buried deep underground in the South Syrian desert, and not in the sea off Crete.

  4. It has not been said anywhere officially or in original reports that the waste products after hydrolysis will be buried or dumped in the sea. I believe the original BBC article seemed to spark off the furore, which said they will be destroyed in International waters (with map of the Med). But aboard the ship in International waters, there is no mention of dumping anything in the sea.

    The Telegraph article you link to above says the ‘remaining effluent after hydrolysis on the ship will be disposed of COMMERCIALLY'(my capitals). The OPCW website is asking for tenders for this.