Improving MSP Data: European Initiatives and a Dedicated Technical Expert Group.

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6 July, 2020

The recently formed Technical Expert Group on MSP Data has been established to increase dialogue within the European MSP community and to move towards more robust and common standards in terms of MSP-related data collection and delivery. Under the TEG, a working sub-group has been set to focus on harmonization issues and to identify or elaborate potential common data models (structure, format, nomenclature, etc.).

The 1st meeting of this working sub-group took place in May 2020 and brought together more than 40 MSP experts, and was organized around four talks providing insight on harmonization methods developed under the following European projects and data initiatives: HELCOM-VASAB, MarSP, SIM projects and EMODnet.


Insights from 4 European MSP projects and initiatives

In 2018 the HELCOM-VASAB working group on MSP data delivered guidelines for output data, including data specifications, technical requirements, and harmonization in the MSP context. This 13-page document is available at: and has been identified by the TEG as a robust and transferable method. The proposed flat data model has been identified as a relevant standard for plan data, allowing one to distinguish different types of space allocation, from priority to exclusion, and using controlled vocabulary for sea uses. The data model has been put to practice in, an online geographic data portal that provides both input and output data from the MSP process in the Baltic Sea. This advanced example has already been a source of inspiration for other European data portals.


The INSPIRE-based MSP data model developed in MarSP is an extended version of Planned Land Use INSPIRE model, including classification system for maritime activities and allows one to consider the vertical dimension of sea uses. It has been discussed and tested during a dedicated workshop in 2019 and implemented in the Canaries MSP platform. The INSPIRE dimension of this data model makes it a consistent and transferable model by design, which could be a strong advantage to consider for all Member-States’ plans to come. The model includes a base for cumulative impact assessment (PLASMAR+ project 2020-2022) and land-sea interaction analyses. Resources available for applying the data model are Data specification document (V1.0), as related templates (xsd-gml; GeoPackage and ESRI shapefiles). 


Within each of the SIM cross-border projects (Celt, -Wetsmed, -Norat, -Atlantic), data portals were setup to bring together MSP datasets made available by member states. These have mostly concerned MSP input data as of now, but specific attention is given to output data within the on-going SIM-Atlantic project. To this end, the French Hydrographic and Oceanographic Institute (SHOM) is disseminating a survey to member states to assess their current standards in terms of output data (format, language, licences).


In advance of the 2021 deadline to provide all member-states marine spatial plans online, the EMODnet – Human Uses Activities portal team hosted by CETMAR institute has developed a proposal for a common nomenclature of ocean uses, which is based on plans that have already been approved and is continuously updated. It is meant to ensure the use of a standardized vocabulary. The dimension of translation will also be of key importance, a challenge for which the work provided by HELCOM-VASAB MSP Data expert group ( in the Baltic could help to include more and more languages and move to possible multilanguage options.