skip to navigation skip to content skip to footer

Proliferation Security Initiative

PSI Overview

The Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) is a global effort that aims to build capabilities to counter illicit trade in technology for weapons of mass destruction (WMD), their delivery systems and related materials, to and from states and non-state actors of proliferation concern.

PSI participants are deeply concerned about the threat of WMD proliferation, and about the danger posed by WMD in the hands of terrorists.

Under the PSI countries commit to establish a more coordinated and effective basis to impede and stop the illicit trade in WMD by interdicting vessels, aircraft or other modes of transport in or over their territory or territorial waters that are reasonably suspected of carrying illicit cargo.

The PSI has transformed how nations act together against proliferation, harnessing their diplomatic, military, law enforcement and intelligence assets in a multinational, yet flexible, fashion.

In October 2003, the United Kingdom, United States, Germany and Italy acting under the auspices of PSI stopped an illegal cargo of centrifuge parts to be used for uranium enrichment in Libya.

This interdiction led to the welcome decision by Libya to renounce its WMD programs.

The PSI complements the existing network of arms control and counter-proliferation regimes and treaties, and has been praised by the previous UN Secretary General Annan as an important way to "fill a gap in our defences".

Participants in PSI commit themselves under the PSI Statement of Interdiction Principles to take action to interdict illicit WMD transfers where appropriate, to the extent that their national legal systems permit and consistent with their obligations under international law and frameworks. 105 states now support PSI, and this number is steadily increasing. PSI activities are coordinated by a 21-country Operational Experts Group (OEG), which includes Australia.

Australia's commitment to PSI

Australia is an original and continuing supporter of the PSI. Countering the threat of WMD proliferation is a key security priority for Australia, as stated in the 2016 Defence White Paper. Participation in practical initiatives, including the PSI, is an important component of Australia's multidimensional strategy in addressing this growing threat.

The proliferation problem is especially relevant in the Asia-Pacific and Australia is committed to working with its neighbours on non-proliferation and disarmament objectives.

Australia has a strong history of commitment to PSI, hosting the first ever PSI exercise, PACIFIC PROTECTOR 03, and through our ongoing participation in OEG and ROEG meetings, workshops and PSI exercises around the world.

In April 2006, Australia hosted Exercise PACIFIC PROTECTOR 06, an air/ground interdiction exercise around Darwin. Australia co-hosted with the US a successful PSI Regional Workshop in Sydney (Sep 2009).

Australia also hosted the first Regional OEG (ROEG) meeting in Cairns from 14-16 September 2010, in conjunction with Exercise Pacific Protector '10. The ROEG meeting was an important opportunity for like-minded States in the Asia Pacific to strengthen regional measures to combat illicit transfers of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), delivery systems and related materials.

In 2013, Australia's support for regional PSI events was formalised through our commitment to the PSI Asia-Pacific Exercise Rotation (APER). The APER involves Australia, Japan, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, Singapore and the United States. APER countries share hosting duties of PSI exercises in our region on an annual basis and participate in these events.

The Australian Defence Force has provided important assets to a range of international PSI Exercises, both within the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.

Australian Government subject matter experts actively participate in exercises, workshops and meetings to improve information exchange and capacity building within the PSI community.

For more information on Australia's arms control and counter-proliferation policies, visit the website of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and trade.