Despite relevant bans, individuals as well as states and non-state actors have repeatedly managed to acquire the technology needed to manufacture weapons of mass destruction. In many instances those involved have taken advantage of freer global trade to circumvent national controls and conceal the true nature of their activities.
Through network-building and regular training exercises, the PSI aims to improve cooperation on the interdiction of suspect transfers by land, sea or air of items that could be used to manufacture nuclear, chemical or biological weapons and delivery systems. The PSI is thus an effective supplement to long-standing non-proliferation agreements and export-control mechanisms. All PSI activities are fully consistent with applicable international and domestic law.
In 2003, the participating states agreed on shared Interdiction Principles.
A total of 105 countries have expressed their support for the PSI’s goals. A core group of 21 participants in the Initiative, including Germany, meets once or twice a year as the Operational Expert Group (OEG). There are also regional meetings, and international training exercises are conducted to practise preventing the transport of goods relevant to proliferation.
In June 2015, a seminar was held in Frankfurt am Main, launching the Franco-German Mediterranean Initiative intended to extend the PSI to the countries on the southern Mediterranean coast. In 2018 the PSI celebrated its 15th anniversary with a high-level political meeting in Paris in May at which the participants reaffirmed their commitment to the Initiative. Perhaps the best-known example of a successful interdiction operation was the seizure in October 2003 of the cargo of gas ultracentrifuge casings intended for Libya’s nuclear weapons programme on board the vessel BBC China. In the wake of this incident, Libya terminated its military nuclear weapons programme.