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Proliferation Security Initiative: sending a message to WMD proliferators

FEATURES: Line of Defence, April 2016

Customs officer presents to Minister Nicky Wagner and Exercise Maru participants. Image courtesy NZ Customs.Customs officer presents to Minister Nicky Wagner and Exercise Maru participants. Image courtesy NZ Customs.

Exercise Maru 2015 examined current proliferation trends and challenges, and examined border authorities and their capacity and capability to respond to the trafficking of WMDs and related material.

 

On Tuesday 17 November 2015, around 100 people from 21 Asia Pacific countries met in Wellington for Exercise Maru 2015, the second Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) in the Asia Pacific Exercise Rotation (APER) programme. Exercise Maru brings together countries with expertise in combating Weapon of Mass Destruction (WMD) proliferation for a three-day long desktop exercise to share information and to to test the ability of Asia-Pacific countries to respond to a proliferation incident in the region

The Proliferation Security Initiative was launched in 2003 by the United States and has been endorsed by over 105 countries including New Zealand. The initiative seeks cooperation from countries whose vessels, ports, waters, aircraft, airspace or land might be used for the trafficking of weapons of mass destruction.

Exercise Maru 2015 examined current proliferation trends and challenges and examined countries’ legal authorities, and their capacity and capability to respond to the trafficking of WMDs and related material. Participating academics and practitioners shared and applied their knowledge and skills to problem scenarios presented.

The exercise also included a static display of New Zealand Government response capability, interdiction-related equipment and dual-use materials. Additionally, the US Army Pacific Operational Protection Directorate (USARPAC) Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear Division (CBRN) in partnership with the US Joint Program Executive Office (JPEO) provided a static display of “basic detection” and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

 

Customs mobile container x-ray unit. Image courtesy NZ Customs.Customs mobile container x-ray unit. Image courtesy NZ Customs.

 

The exercise concluded on 20 November with a display of some of New Zealand’s counter-proliferation capabilities from Customs, the Fire Service, and the New Zealand Defence Force’s (NZDF) Explosives Ordnance Disposal squadron at CentrePort Wellington. On display was Customs’ Large Cargo X-Ray (container x-ray), equipment from NZDF’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Squadron including their bomb disposal robot, and the Fire Service’s Hazardous Materials detection and decontamination unit.

“I enjoyed the opportunity to see first-hand some of New Zealand’s counter-proliferation capabilities at CentrePort. Although we’d like to think that acts of terrorism wouldn’t happen in our backyard we have to remember no country is immune from the threat of dangerous weapons,” said Customs Minister Nicky Wagner.

Advances in high-tech industries and the blurring of lines in the production of goods for civilian and military use are changing landscape of WMD threats. According to Customs, the exercise is a forum for deterring would-be proliferators, for getting the message out “that we’re ready for whatever comes our way.”

In recent decades the Asia Pacific region has become a key trading hub and the use of nuclear energy in the region is expected to grow significantly. While this increase in trade has its benefits, it also creates new avenues for WMD proliferation. New Zealand’s geographically remote location in relation to world hot spots and population centres does not make it immune from threats.

 

NZ Fire mobile command centre. Image courtesy NZ Customs.NZ Fire mobile command centre. Image courtesy NZ Customs.

 

Customs’ daily activities at the border, which use intelligence and risk assessment to identify and inspect goods of interest, all play a role in counter proliferation. The agency works closely with other agencies, and in particular the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), to monitor the movement of dual-use goods (goods that have a legitimate use but could also be used in the manufacture of weapons of mass destruction).

According to Customs, the exercise demonstrated New Zealand’s commitment to playing its part to ensure PSI succeeds in its goals and to keep New Zealanders safe from the risk of WMD falling into the wrong hands. As more Asia Pacific countries join the initiative, Customs believes it will become more effective.

Customs contributes to the Asia Pacific Exercise Rotation (APER) planning and exercising cycle and representatives from New Zealand recently attended a PSI planning conference in Singapore. The next exercise in the APER will be Exercise Deep Sabre III to be hosted by Singapore later this year.

New Zealand joined the PSI in 2004 and is a member of the Initiative’s 21-country Operational Experts Group (OEG). An active participant in PSI activities, New Zealand hosted a meeting of the OEG in Auckland in 2007, executed Exercise Maru in Auckland in 2008 and participated in the USA-hosted PSI Exercise Fortune Guard 2014.

 

NZDF Explosives Ordnace Disposal Squadron’s robot on display at Exercise Maru 2015. Image courtesy NZ Customs.NZDF Explosives Ordnace Disposal Squadron’s robot on display at Exercise Maru 2015. Image courtesy NZ Customs.

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