Australian police have announced their largest seizure of methamphetamine, an illicit drug smuggled into Sydney hidden in shipments of chemicals from China.

Authorities said on Thursday that they had also arrested an Australian, a Singaporean and a man from Hong Kong, after seizing 585kg of the drug valued at $448m.

"This is the largest single seizure of ice in Australian law enforcement history and almost doubles the previous record seizure of 300kg in July 2012," police said in a statement.

The drugs were found in a shipment of cleaning chemicals from Shenzhen in southern China following a tip-off to the Asian crime squad in September.

Australian Federal Police Commissioner Tony Negus said the sophisticated syndicate went to "considerable lengths to escape detection" and the authorities had not ruled out further arrests, either in Australia or overseas.

"We've already been in contact with authorities in China and a range of further inquiries are under way," said Negus.

Andrew Scipione, police commissioner of New South Wales state, said it was "very fortunate that somebody took the time to make that phone call".

"This is the sort of drug that sends people mad," he said of the extremely addictive stimulant that can trigger erratic and violent behaviour.

The three arrested men, who will appear in a Sydney court on Thursday, face life in prison and/or more than a million dollars fine for commercial drug possession.

Lucrative market

Australia is becoming an increasingly lucrative market for international drug networks because of the strength of the local currency and resilience of the national economy compared to other wealthy nations.

The previous record seizure of 306kg came during a investigation into a Hong Kong-linked international drugs syndicate that resulted in seven arrests, including four from the former British territory.

The drugs had been stashed in terracotta pots in a shipment from Thailand.

More recently, Australian police in November seized 235kg of methamphetamine hidden inside a consignment of heavy machinery from China.

Source: Agencies