Published: Jul 02, 2014 7:40 AM EDT
Updated: Jul 02, 2014 10:52 AM EDT

GIOIA TAURO, Italy (AP) - A Danish ship carrying hundreds of tons of Syrian chemical weapons steamed into the southern Italian port of Gioia Tauro on Wednesday for a rendezvous with a U.S. cargo vessel that will destroy the toxic material.

Escorted by an Italian coast guard vessel and a helicopter buzzing overhead, the Ark Futura pulled into port as the sun rose and anchored near the MV Cape Ray, which has equipment on board to neutralize the chemicals.

Within an hour of arrival, a forklift truck was at work on the Ark Fortuna's deck beginning to move the containers. Local officials estimate the transfer of chemicals might take as long as 20 hours, depending on sea conditions.

Once the chemicals are moved onto the Cape Ray, it will sail into the open sea and begin the process of neutralizing the materials.

The Ark Futura last month picked up the last batch of Syrian chemical weapons - including mustard gas and the raw materials for sarin nerve gas - that were removed as part of the international effort to destroy Syria's chemical stockpile.

The Cape Ray's cargo hold is outfitted with two machines called Field Deployable Hydrolysis Systems. They consist of mazes of tanks, tubes, cables and electronics that will mix the Syrian chemicals with heated water and other chemicals in a titanium reactor to render them inert.

The resulting waste will then be disposed of on land in dumps equipped to handle hazardous materials.

U.S. officials say no vapor or water runoff will be released into the atmosphere or the sea as a result of the process.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

7/2/2014 2:39:19 AM (GMT -4:00)