A SHIPMENT of 150 tonnes of chemicals originally stockpiled to make deadly weapons by the Syrian regime will pass through a Hampshire port.

The consignment of so-called B precursor chemicals is expected to arrive in Marchwood Military Port from the war torn Middle Eastern country this summer.

The substances- which include ingredients stored by the Assad regime as part of its chemical weapons programme - are being shipped as part of a major international scheme to destroy the country's chemical weapons.

They will be treated using specialist equipment on a US ship before being loaded onto lorries at Marchwood and driven to Ellesmere Port in Cheshire for destruction.

A spokeswoman for the Foreign Office said they were yet to finalise a date of arrival due to delays in Syria but expected it to be the end of August.

She stressed they pose no hazards to the public as they have been treated en-route and said:

“The chemicals will have been diluted to such an extent that will minimise their potential and there is no risk to local populations.

“There are detailed plans to liaise with local councils and the Environment Agency and community groups.”

The deadline for destroying the weapons set by the international community is June 30.
But it is likely to take at least another month to load the ships before a journey of more than a week to Britain.

From Marchwood they will travel overland to be incinerated at Ellesmere Port at a specialist plant owned by Veolia.

A spokesman for Veolia said that B precursor chemicals were routinely used in the pharmaceutical industry and were similar in nature to standard industrial materials safely processed at its plant.

The company's executive vice president for UK and Northern Europe Estelle Brachlianoff said: “We will continue to work closely with the Ministry of Defence and relevant UK authorities to ensure the safe destruction of these chemicals in line with our high environmental, health, safety and operating standards.”

Syria is believed to posses 1,300 tonnes of chemical agents, including the nerve agent sarin, which was unleashed by President Bashar al-Assad on civilians in Ghouta last August, when more than 1,000 people died.

The components have deliberately been separated into two different vessels for safety so that they cannot be used to create weapons.

A Norwegian ship Taiko will transport the chemicals to the USA, while the Danish vessel Ark Futura will travel to Britain.

En route it will stop at the US ship MV Cape Ray, where most of the more toxic substances will be neutralised by the process of hydrolysis.