With special machinery installed in the hold of this American cargo ship, the MV Cape Ray is poised to embark on an unprecedented mission to destroy Syria's lethal chemical agents at sea.
At a shipyard in Virginia, the 650-foot (197.5-meter) ship from the Maritime Administration's reserve fleet has been outfitted with two portable hydrolysis systems designed to neutralize the most dangerous chemicals in Syria's arsenal.
"I'm waiting for my sailing orders," said Captain Rick Jordan, clad in overalls and a construction helmet.
The US officer told reporters he expects to get the green light to set off "within about two weeks."
Under a deal brokered by Russia and the United States, Syria was supposed to remove its key chemical weapons components by the end of 2013.
But the country's raging civil war, logistical problems and bad weather have held up plans to move chemical agents out of Syria to the port of Latakia, according to the joint UN-Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) mission overseeing the effort.
The most dangerous elements used for mustard gas and the nerve agent sarin are supposed to be loaded soon onto cargo ships and escorted to Italy by Danish and Norwegian naval vessels.
In waters off Italy, about 700 tonnes of chemical agents will then be loaded onto the Cape Ray, according to Frank Kendall, Pentagon undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.
The US ship will then head out to an undisclosed location in the Mediterranean to begin the task of neutralizing the chemical agents.