While most chemical or industrial waste finds a final resting place, some goes off on long, circuitous journeys to nowhere.

That's what happened with 2,100 metric tons of wastes stored in 12,000 drums from an Italian chemical company in February 1987.Fifteen months later it is back in Italy aboard what Italians call the "ship of poison."

The waste was first loaded aboard a Maltese freighter at the port of Marina di Carrara, about 60 miles southeast of Genoa and sent to tiny Djibouti in northeast Africa. Djibouti's authorities turned it away.

The vessel then took the cargo almost half a world away to Venezuela, where it was unloaded. But people there protested and authorities ordered the waste removed.

It was put aboard a Cypriot freighter and taken to Syria, after the ship was turned away by Greece. Syrian authorities inspected the cargo, said it might contain radioactivity and ordered it back to Italy, its place of origin.

The Syrian freighter Zanoobia - now, the "ship of poison" to Italians - took it to Marina di Carrara. The Zanoobia anchored off the port for a month and five crewmen fell ill after having lived with the cargo for four months.

They were taken to a hospital but released after treatment of ailments not further detailed.

Italian officials then allowed the Zanoobia to dock May 29 in Genoa, where another crewman was hospitalized after complaining of nausea and abdominal pains.

The Zanoobia remains in Genoa while Italian authorities decide when and how to remove its cargo and where to dispose of it in Italy.

It the meantime, health officials test the air and water around the vessel to be sure it does not contaminate the area. They said they have not found any evidence of radioactivity in the cargo, but they still are not sure exactly what the chemicals are.

The Italian government has appropriated $3.3 million for the disposal but said the money would have to be repaid by Jelly Wax, the company in Milan that contracted to dispose of the chemicals in the first place.