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Preparing to stop weapons of mass destruction

Customs Minister Nicky Wagner (5th from left) and Customs Comptroller Carolyn Tremain (4th from left), together with delegates from the Asia Pacific region, listen to a Customs officer explain the capabilities of Customs' portable container inspection unit.

Preparing to stop weapons of mass destruction

On Tuesday 17 November 2015, around 100 people from twenty one Asia Pacific countries met in Wellington for Exercise Maru 2015, the second Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) in the Asia Pacific Exercise Rotation (APER) programme.

The multi-national, multi-agency exercise was led by New Zealand Customs and designed to enhance the capability and capacity of PSI endorsee nations in the Asia Pacific to stop the potential spread of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the region.

Group Manager Intelligence Investigations & Enforcement, Jamie Bamford says testing the processes and systems of all countries involved to respond to a proliferation threat was at the top of the agenda.

“Participants shared knowledge and worked through scenarios presented to them during the three day table top exercise.”

The Asia Pacific region has become one of the most important trading hubs in the world and is home to many leading producers of dual-use commodities (technology for both military and civilian purposes). With the movement of high volumes of sea cargo additional responsibility is placed on governments to adequately control the flow of goods while preventing smuggling of risk items.

“Exercise Maru provided the opportunity to draw from the knowledge of government and academic subject matter experts. This not only strengthens our shared understanding of the PSI, but also our collective responsibility for reinforcing it,” says Jamie.

Lead Planner, Simon Carr says the table top exercise scenario, which was designed to simulate a real-world proliferation challenge, used a fictional country seeking to engage in proliferation activity.

“Working together, participants applied processes and legislation of their own countries to respond to the threats presented to them in the scenarios. Learning and insights were briefed out by the teams in two sessions designed to ensure all participants benefited from shared outcomes developed.”

These insights and lessons learned will build on the extensive PSI Exercise programme body of knowledge, contributing to the enhancement of this critical counter-proliferation regional effort.

“Exercise Maru 2015 has reinforced the nature of the PSI community as a cooperative network, offering support and guidance, both on a state level and through the World Customs Organization,” says Simon.

 

 

 

The table top exercise provided an environment for honest and open discussion and enabled countries to strengthen and consolidate their procedures related to deterring the proliferation of WMDs and WMD related materials in the Asia Pacific region.

A display at CentrePort from Customs, the Fire Service, and New Zealand Defence Force’s Explosives Ordnance Squadron demonstrated New Zealand’s practical and interagency effort to respond to the proliferation of WMD related materials.

Minister of Customs Nicky Wagner and senior military officers from New Zealand Defence Force’s Exercise Southern Katipo 2015 joined Exercise Maru participants to visit the port display.

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.

Customs Minister Nicky Wagner says Exercise Maru has been a successful test of New Zealand's and the Asia Pacific’s capability to work together and respond to a potential proliferation threat.

“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,” says Ms Wagner.

New Zealand is committed to playing its part to ensure PSI succeeds in its goals, and as more Asia Pacific countries join us we will become more effective. The next exercise in the Asia Pacific Exercise Rotation (APER) will be Exercise Deep Sabre III, to be hosted by Singapore next year.

Proliferation Security Initiative

The PSI was launched by the United States in 2003 and there are currently 105 countries signed up.

The APER programme started in 2014 with exercise Fortune Guard hosted by the US in Hawaii. It seeks to maintain regular counter-proliferation activities within the region to improve countries’ capabilities.

There are six members of the APER – the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, and Korea. Every year a country in the APER will host a PSI exercise bringing together Asia-Pacific nations to further strengthen counter-proliferation capability in the region.

 

 

Exercise Maru 2015 participants

Exercise Maru participants were from a range of agencies including NZ Customs, New Zealand Defence Force, Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade, and New Zealand Fire Service. Participating countries included:

·         Australia

·         Canada

·         Fiji

·         Indonesia

·         Italy

·         Japan

·         Malaysia

·         Mongolia

·         New Zealand

·         Papa New Guinea

·         Philippines

·         Singapore

·         Solomon Islands

·         South Korea

·         Sri Lanka

·         Thailand

·         Tonga

·         United States

·         Vanuatu

·         Vietnam

·         Western Samoa

·         World Customs Organization