Ship to Destroy Assad's Chemical Weapons Sets Sail in Mid-January

Almost all elements of this bold plan contain significant holes.

Workers unload equipment from the MV Cape Ray part of the U.S. maritime reserve fleet in Portsmouth, Va., Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013.
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The U.S. ship ultimately responsible for destroying the most deadly of Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles will set sail from port in Virginia in the coming days.

The Cape Ray, operating out of Portsmouth, Va., has been undergoing sea trials in recent weeks to test the first ever configuration of chemical weapons destruction equipment serving as crew and accompanying the merchant ship when it ultimately sets sail for Italy.

[READ: Inside the Ship That Will Destroy Assad's Chemical Weapons]

It will return to Portsmouth on Tuesday after four days of sea trials for final outfitting before it departs. Sea conditions off the U.S. coast over these days have helped the crew measure the limitations of the Field Deployable Hydrolysis System on board, a Pentagon spokesperson says.

Yet the full details of this bold plan remain murky. Dutch and Norwegian ships have volunteered to transport the chemical weapons only after Syrian regime forces round them up, transport them by ground through an active warzone and deliver them to the Syrian port of Latakia. Syria has already missed the Dec. 31 deadline for this task set by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which is overseeing the operation.

Italy has volunteered to house the chemical weapons temporarily until the Cape Ray can pick them up. Yet the specific port where this will take place has not yet been released.

[ALSO: The Tall Task of Destroying Syria's Chemical Weapons]

OPCW has mandated the destruction of these chemical weapons must be completed by this summer. The Cape Ray does not yet know how long it will have to wait in the Mediterranean Sea before it is called up to perform its part of the plan.

"The Cape Ray will be prepared to wait until the chemical weapons are brought on board," said Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren on Monday, offering no further details on this timeline.

The announcement of the specific port will likely come out of Italy, Warren said.

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