January 10, 2014 6:55 pm

From defence to offence

‘Maybe the ships can go on missions wherever dangerous, offensive and annoying items lurk’

Around the end of this month the US Navy ship Cape Ray will set about the dangerous, time-consuming and necessary task of neutralising a portion of Syria’s chemical weapons. After a high-seas transfer from Danish and Norwegian vessels, two specially fitted hydrolysis machines will start breaking down various deadly compounds (mustard gas and sarin among others) before the leftover waste is transferred to special dumping facilities.

Once the work is complete, the hydrolysis machines will probably be removed (unless more WMDs are discovered) from the Cape Ray and she’ll return to port in Virginia, where she’ll wait for another mission.

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Tyler Brûlé

Measuring some 650ft in length, the Cape Ray is part of a special class of roll-on, roll-off transport vessels that the US navy uses for heavy-lifting missions. If it wasn’t for the grey paint job, the ships in this class would look like any other cargo vessel used to transport vehicles and goods from industrialised nations to emerging markets. As the US’s Military Sealift Command has many such ships sitting idle, and the world is full of all kinds of things that need be destroyed, perhaps the Pentagon could create a new revenue stream by offering the vessels for special detect-and-destroy missions wherever dangerous, offensive and generally annoying items lurk.

So here is a proposed Fast Lane itinerary for the Cape May or one of its sister ships to target Objects of Mass Offence (OMO).

Day one The vessel sets sail from the US naval facility at Norfolk, Virginia, fitted with stores full of all manner of devices to crush, compact and recycle products and fittings that have no place in the international market. On board will be special vehicles and inspectors to oversee round-ups when the vessel pulls into port.

Day two New York is the first port of call. Landing craft and helicopters will be deployed in time for the morning school and work rush-hour. They will rid the city of jumbo prams that have no place on the paths of Central Park, let alone the narrow pavements of Lexington Avenue. They will also tackle oversized water bottles with nipple tops that have no place in the mouths of adults who should know better, as well as security turnstiles in the lobbies of large office buildings that do nothing to deter terrorists and are simply annoying.

Days three to five While at sea, the collected items will be dismantled, compacted, or reconfigured. Large prams will be melted down and transformed into metal rods for use at future ports of call.

Day six Early arrival in Toronto. Helicopters will be deployed with specially fitted units to remove unimaginative and occasionally dangerous glass balconies from the plague of condos polluting the downtown core. The glass panels will be replaced with intricate metal railings made from the melted Manhattan prams. At the same time, residents will be invited on board the ship for inspirational talks on how to decorate outdoor spaces rather than using them as excess storage space for rollaway beds, unwanted toys, skis and other unsightly objects that belong in basement storage and not on display for the world to see.

Days seven to 12 Arrival in Southampton – smaller landing vessels deployed to other UK cities. Inspectors and vehicles will fan out across Britain to remove windows and doors that not only let heat out and the cold in but also do a good job of attracting the interest of thieves. As the UK has somehow managed to miss the window revolution that has swept across Europe, a special battalion from Italian doormaker Telser will be put in charge of rehabilitating fittings worth keeping while refitting the rest of the nation with doors that whoosh and shut with a confident thud and windows that open inward (for easy cleaning).

Day 14 Arrival in Hamburg with an immediate deployment of forces to all restaurants and factories across Germany responsible for using and manufacturing ridiculous looking plates and platters that have absolutely no place in restaurants or crockery cupboards. As the Germans (and the Swiss, Austrians and French, too) haven’t moved on from wavy plates, swirly serving dishes and other nouvelle touches in many catering environments, the OMO programme will get German kitchens back to serving from sensibly sized round plates and producers making products that people can easily store and serve with one hand.

Other ports of call and items due for destruction can be added to this itinerary. Feel free to drop our logistics centre a note at the email below.

Tyler Brûlé is editor-in-chief of Monocle magazine

tyler.brule@ft.com

More columns at ft.com/brule

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