Marine Spatial Planning as a tool to boost and support “Blue” Entrepreneurship in Islands

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23 April, 2021

On 16th of April 2021, a virtual Workshop on ‘Maritime Spatial Planning as a tool to boost and support “Blue” Entrepreneurship in Islands’ was held that focused on the needs of insular regions, economies and SMEs. The event was organized by the Network of the Insular Chambers of Commerce of the EU (INSULEUR) in partnership with the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and the Centre of Excellence on Blue Growth – Shipping Marine Environment – INSULARITY of the National & Kapodistrian University of Athens. The European MSP Platform was invited to give a presentation on northern European experiences in insular MSP.

The Workshop gathered over 60 participants and a prominent panel of speakers. The topics of the Blue Growth of islands and an EU framework for MSP (EU Directive 2014/89/EU) as an integral part of the EU Integrated Maritime Policy were addressed, together with examples and best practices from Malta Gozo Business Chamber, northern islands from the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, and the Clean Energy for the EU Islands Initiative. It was highlighted that islands with different and unique characteristics develop specific strategies to boost island entrepreneurship and to harness distinctive economic assets of islands.

The European MSP Platform’s expert, Patrycja Enet, provided two specific case studies from the North Sea and the Baltic Sea that highlighted the importance of an integrated and holistic approach to MSP to islands’ planning and management; transboundary collaboration at the regional scale for islands’ sustainable management; and islands’ innovative energy efficiency and decarbonization solutions constraining environmental pollution. One example presented was of the Finnish islands -Archipelago Sea islands and Åland islands, where archipelagic ferry traffic serves for touristic island hopping. Developments towards powering these ferries by green hydrogen is considered a strong potential renewable alternative to fossil fuel. These developments also include an estimation of the required energy storage capacity on islands for large-scale integration of renewables and electric ferry charging stations.    

The workshop concluded that the blue economy is an important niche for the diversification of insular economies for their revival and long-term sustainability. It also highlighted best practice examples to help National or Regional Authorities in elaborating their MSP, bearing in mind the flexibility needed to boost island entrepreneurship. It is hoped that the outputs of this event will be useful for policy and decision-makers for developing MSP while building island territories’ comparative advantage, adopting business models built on quality, environmental values, distinctiveness, recognition of territorial labels and culture, and supporting innovation in service sectors such as tourism and retail.