There are many resources available on the European MSP Platform to address questions that may arise about MSP. On this page you will find several FAQs according to specific MSP related topics. When questions are submitted to the EU MSP Platform Question & Answer Service, they are answered individually. Depending on the nature of the question, they will be generalised and the corresponding answers provided will be added to this page.

The answers on the FAQ page are continuously kept up to date and linked to more practices and projects as they are added to the website. This ensures that the answers will always refer to the most relevant and advanced information, knowledge and experiences with MSP today.

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MSP Data and Assessment Tools

  • What themes or categories of data have been frequently used for the MSP purposes?

    MSP information and data needs strongly depend on the type of planning that is being carried out. As part of the Data Study, a systematic analysis of data and information was conducted using the following categories: a) data known to be available, b) accessible (i.e. not being owned by companies) to MSP Planners and then c) used by MSP Planners. The analysis was based not only on a review of existing MSP plans, but also on relevant strategy reports from Member States who have appointed an MSP authority and have expressed the intention to develop an MSP plan.

    Table 1 provides a list of types and categories of data and information commonly used in MSP processes. The table also indicates how these MSP themes and categories relate to INSPIRE spatial themes (column 3). This is not to say that MSP planners have no need of additional data sets, but rather that these may be either unknown or inaccessible to MSP planners, or in fact non-existent due to ‘knowledge gaps’. Analysis shows that the data categories currently used by MSP planners are essentially similar (Table 1).

    Four broad categories can be identified: 1. Administrative boundaries, 2. Description of the geophysical environment and biological/ecological features, 3. Data relating to the relevant human activities and sectors, 4. Socio-economic and policy-related data. Least variation is noted with respect to the first two categories, i.e. the description of the geophysical environment and biological/ecological features in the planning areas and boundaries (basic geographical and administrative boundaries, such as the limits of the EEZ, country and county boundaries or depth contours).

    Physical and biological data are often related to the MSFD categories and, in some cases, are drawn directly from MSFD assessments. Such data is largely descriptive and serves to characterise the planning area and its major features. Where there are direct links to MSFD assessment, the descriptive data categories also include human pressures and occasionally the sources of such pressures (e.g. marine litter, marine underwater noise, point sources of pollution). Linking MSFD and MSP efforts in this manner seems an effective way of ensuring MSP is based on sound environmental evidence; in turn, it is a way of ensuring that MSP is able to contribute to achieving the objectives of the MSFD.

    The third category, data relating to human activities and sectors, is more varied. The main sectors are once again similar and differences are mostly found in the weight given to each sector in terms of the diversity of data categories specified and the expression of the sector (e.g. whether offshore energy refers to offshore wind farming, wave energy, CCS, oil and gas, etc.). The most significant differences are found in the fourth category (socio-economic and policy-related data) and whether this is included in the plan/data portal. There is evidence that older plans are less likely to include this type of information (e.g. the German plan for the EEZ) but all of the more recent drafts or plans make some reference to it. It is therefore likely that this data category will become more important in the future.

    Data, information, evidence and knowledge are closely related concepts but each has their own role in relation to the other. Knowledge is the logical interpretation of evidence from data and information. Evidence needs are therefore likely to be influenced by:

    • The strategic level of the plan, taking its timeframe into account (e.g. requiring evidence on future trends, long-term perspectives, scenarios and projections),

    • The level of integration pursued by the plan (e.g. requiring more complex evidence, such as evidence of cumulative impacts of sea use),

    • The degree of participation and, linked to this, the types of knowledge included in decision-making (influencing the kind of evidence that is admitted to the decision-making process – e.g. scientific vs. non-scientific evidence),

    • The need to be able to justify planning decisions (e.g. if the plan is challenged in court),

    • Transboundary dimension of the plan, if relevant,

    • Monitoring and evaluation of the planning area and the plan itself.

    The Data Study has also identified technical and political issues concerning accessibility and availability of the data, and gaps in information. A list of known data deficiencies and knowledge gaps was compiled. Guiding questions were:

    • What data and information do planners need to have, and at which stage of the planning process?

    • Which data categories and data sets does this translate into?

    • To what extent do planners rely on their own or local knowledge?

    • What are the key knowledge gaps?


  • What are known MSP information gaps?

    Countries seem confident with stocktaking and the descriptive part of MSP status quo assessments. Most are taking a similar approach, though using slightly different data sets and description of categories (according to needs). However, there is a predominance of descriptive data, which describes the marine environment, and less analytical information, which is where the challenge lies in developing second generation plans. These tend to be more ambitious in scope and focus on a broader range of evidence. Some data gaps do exist, and commonly, these are found under the categories of socioeconomic data for different uses/activities, commercial fisheries data and socio-cultural information. The latter is almost entirely lacking, even though it is especially important in the context of implementing the ecosystem based approach (EBA). While the concept of ecosystem services has advanced over the last decade and theoretical approaches have been developed to quantify their value, applying these practically in an ecosystem based approach remains a struggle for planners. There is a need for tools and guidance on how to factor in this type of data and information. Data and knowledge gaps are examined in one form or another in many of the finalised and ongoing projects / initiatives. Common challenges with respect to data gaps, data policy and transboundary data exchange are found at the European, sea basin and regional scales. These include:

    • Availability of suitable data sets in a consistent manner (i.e. compatible formats) across sea basins and regions, coherence across boundaries.

    • No statistical unit (i.e. NUTS equivalent) for sea space.

    • Difficulty in disaggregating information between land and sea

    • Paucity of data or information on land-sea interactions, e.g. degree to which coastal communities are dependent on their links to adjacent seas and the potential for them to benefit from growing maritime  

    • Limited access to social, economic and governance data, although this is improving.

    • Gaps and weaknesses in historical time series, and ensuring data quality.

    Overall, with respect to data and information gaps, the challenge for MSP authorities is not so much about what data but more how to aggregate and interpret the data in order to acquire the information needed by the planner. Further insight into specific data and information gaps are likely to be identified as part of the EMODnet Sea-basin Checkpoints where the availability and adequacy of marine data to meet different commercial and policy challenges is being evaluated.

  • What data infrastructure have been made/used ?

    A systematic analysis of data infrastructures across European sea basins was carried out as part of the Data Study in order to identify the scope and potential relevance of existing data infrastructures to MSP processes. The focus was on European and national level systems which are operational (i.e. regularly updated and maintained). Themes and sub-themes adopted from the MMO Evidence Strategy 2015 – 2020 were used to establish the scope of the data infrastructure with respect to providing relevant data for MSP purposes. A total of 60 data infrastructures potentially addressing one or more of the above MSP process themes have so far been identified. Among these, a broad coverage of different types of data infrastructures across the different sea basins was found, with data portals being at the forefront, followed by GIS mapping tools and information services.

    Information services, data catalogues and data portals which provide data that describe marine areas may also be of use to MSP Planners, but are not explicitly made available for MSP purposes. These include the following:

    European-wide Data Infrastructures (not MSP-explicit)

    Atlantic Sea Basin

    Baltic Sea Basin

    North Sea Basin

    Mediterranean Sea Basin

    Data portals that were developed to support an MSP process or project can be found at the bottom of this page with a short description.

    More recently, the BalticLINes project developed a report on MSP data exchange and dissemination. The report summarizes the results of the analysis of the prerequisites for a Systems Architecture for a Transnational Data Infrastructure for MSP (BASEMAPS). The first part includes the findings of a desktop study of available systems providing interoperable data and existing technology standards around the world. The second part is presenting the analysis of user demands based on experience from former projects as well as interviews with planners carried out during the Baltic LINes project. Finally, the specification of the design requirements and a conceptual model for the system is presented.

  • What are some assessment tools that have been used for MSP?

    In various completed projects, assessment tools were called for to support the interpretation of information and building of evidence for MSP (Table 1). However, only in some instances were assessment tools actually developed and/or applied throughout the course of a project.

    Most notably within the currently ongoing BalticLINes and NorthSEE projects, which are implemented by the MSP authorities around the Baltic and North Sea countries, project partners work towards further developing the current 'MSP Challenge' game. This has so far been used mainly to raise awareness among stakeholders of the overall MSP dimension as well as for educational purposes. Within the projects, it is being developed into a 'simulation tool', which shall assist MSP Planners as well as sectors in visualising the spatial dimension of future trends and developments as well as sea-basin wide planning issues - and thus potentially provide support for future planning decisions to be taken by the respective EU Member States.

    Descriptions of additional assessment tools which are or could be used in an MSP process are available below.

  • Does a common standard exist for representing uses / sectors / activities on maps used in national MSPs?

    Cartographic standards for MSP are a national issue, often determined based on specific national planning ordinances. Therefore, common and agreed standards for representing uses / sectors / activities on maps in national MSP plans do not yet exist across EU Member States. As a result, uses and their respective spatial areas are often symbolised in diverse formats. 

    However, there have been some attempts at the sea-basin level to develop common cartographic standards for depicting maritime uses and activities as a result of voluntary, transnational cooperations. For example, the Adriatic Atlas to support ICZM and MSP was the result of the Shape project in the Adriatic Sea region. 

    Additionally, the INSPIRE Directive relates to data on spatial aspects of maritimes uses and activities. The relationship between the INSPIRE Directive and MSP data is discussed in the recently published MSP Data Study, specifically in the section "MSP data themes and the INSPIRE Directive.“ 

MSP Visions

  • Are there examples of macro-regional / maritime strategies and Action Plans providing input for a vision supporting the growth of maritime economy, environmental and social improvement?

    There are certainly examples of such sea-basin maritime strategies and corresponding action plans that operate with a wide thematic approach and contribute the blue economy development. The Atlantic Ocean Maritime Strategy or the Adriatic and Ionian seas Strategies are both valid examples. Both strategies identify challenges and opportunities in the region and take stock of existing initiatives that can support growth and job creation.

    The Atlantic Strategy and its corresponding Action Plan (launched in 2013) aim to revitalise the marine and maritime economy in the Atlantic Ocean area. It shows how the EU's Atlantic Member States, their regions and the Commission can help create sustainable growth in coastal regions and drive forward the "blue economy" while preserving the environmental and ecological stability of the Atlantic Ocean. By promoting cooperation, the Action Plan encourages Member States to work together in areas where they were previously working individually. They are now able to share information, costs, results and best practices, as well as generate ideas for further areas of cooperation of maritime activities. This includes both traditional activities, such as fisheries, aquaculture, tourism and shipping, as well as emerging ones such as offshore renewables and marine biotechnology.

    The EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region (established in 2014) mainly revolves around the opportunities of the maritime economy - 'blue growth', land-sea transport, energy connectivity, protecting the marine environment and promoting sustainable tourism – sectors that are bound to play a crucial role in creating jobs and boosting economic growth in the region.

    Finally, and from a national perspective, Portugal’s National Ocean Strategy, contains an Action Plan aiming at the economic, social and environmental valorisation of the national maritime space through the implementation of sectoral and cross-sectoral projects.

  • How can research on potentials of sea and coastal areas be translated into a vision, which guides the development for the future planning of the sea?

    Research is fundamental in order to develop a clear Intervention Logic for a possible initiative to be taken in order to address identified problems, with a clear focus on the added value for the relevant sub-sea basin. This research will have to convey aspects such as the definition of the problems or existing challenges, the underlying factors and root causes that underpin that problem or challenges or what is the actual scale of the issue at stake. The practice within the preparation of the Western Mediterranean Maritime initiative shows that, at the time of developing the vision, an overall framework has to be prepared.

    At the heart of this framework lies the response capacity, defined as the ability of systems and structures in the Western Mediterranean (businesses, research organisations, authorities and the civil society at large) to fully address the range of challenges and opportunities posed by the regional and global context in which they operate. If such response is not efficient and effective, the outcomes and impacts of such response are expected to be unsustainable (e.g. socially, environmentally and/or economically) either in the short- or the mid/long-term. A key element in the response capacity is the extent to which the existing policy framework is providing effective and efficient regulation and incentives, for the system to function properly. This approach allows for the identification of possible gaps emerging in such support through time, which may require additional action.

    Adding to this, the North Sea 2050 Spatial Agenda (Netherlands - MSP) constitutes a joint research report on the long term potential of sea and coastal areas, translated into a vision, series of ambitions, opportunities, points of action and maps.

    Finally, the BaltSeaPlan Vision 2030 undertook an in-depth research on how MSP processes would impact upon the planning of the Baltic Sea by 2030, especially in relation to shipping, fishery, offshore energy and environmental planning. The principles and transnational topics identified in the vision have been leading guidelines for MSP processes throughout the Baltic Sea Region.  

  • Are there examples of MSP sea-basin wide visions?

    There are examples of sea-basin MSP visions related to spatial development of a given sea basin, such as the Baltic Sea Region Vision 2030, developed as part of the BaltSeaPlan project.  In 2012 it received political acknowledgement through the Committee on Spatial Planning and Development of the Baltic Sea Region (VASAB 2010). The Irish Sea Maritime Forum also agreed on a vision guiding development of the Irish Sea. In 2013, it launched the Irish Sea Issues and Opportunities Report, intended to act as a position statement reflecting the concerns and priorities of Irish Sea stakeholders on a number of issues, as well as suggesting future directions for joint activities. Also, the DG MARE cross-border project ADRIPLAN developed a vision on how to proceed with MSP at a trans-boundary scale within the Adriatic Ionian Region (published in its final recommendations and conclusions). However, this publication has so far not received a formal political endorsement.

    Such visions play a role in ensuring sea-basin coherence of MSP efforts. The visions provide an opportunity for discussing goals and priorities for spatial development of the given sea-basin and for identifying the MSP issues and tasks requiring joint co-operation of several countries. There are also several visions on the scope, content and the level of ambitions of the MSP process. They are different to the visions described above since they focus on the MSP process exclusively. For example, the Baltic Sea Broad-scale MSP principles have been agreed upon and the Regional Baltic MSP Road Map 2013-2020 was adopted. The TPEA project compiled a check-list of key issues necessary in the Atlantic sea-basin for a proper execution of trans-boundary MSP process in a Good Practice Guide.

  • What temporal horizons are used for different visioning processes? 

    There is no specific rule as to what temporal horizon vision should be developed for. While marine spatial plan is medium-term (usually revised every 6 years), a general vision is usually developed for a longer temporal horizon (e.g. 20 years). Some of the broader type visions that are not linked to a specific implementation plan, do not even specify the temporal horizon they cover. Strategies and action plans with specific actions and evaluation systems normally have a shorter temporal horizon, e.g. five years.

    Preferably, the interim temporal horizon should also be defined for more specific objectives and actions for implementing the strategy and reaching the desired vision.

    When deciding on a temporal horizon it is relevant to consider the planning horizons of sectors, e.g. lifecycle of a renewable energy project; and temporal horizons of high-level policy objectives, political mandates and other planning cycles, e.g. coastal zone and land planning processes.

    For example, the VASAB Long Term Perspective operates with three different temporal horizons starting from the endorsement date of the document. Actions denoted as short time are recommended to be completed within five years (until 2015). The medium temporal horizon implies completion of the actions within ten to fifteen years (until 2020-2025). Finally, the long-time horizon indicates that the actions will be implemented on a constant basis throughout the whole period (until 2030).

    The North Sea Policy Document 2016 – 2021 summarizes the Netherlands long term vision (2050) and incorporates a maritime spatial plan. It also aims to look at the broader picture and consider other relevant trends in the region. The document is being officially revised every six years, but given that this is an adaptive process it is also continuously being revised for certain aspects within shorter periods, as soon as new relevant evidence is available. This enables the vision process to adapt to changes in the environment and new technology (i.e. technology readiness and commercialization of floating wind energy generation).

    The Long term Vision Document for the Belgian Part of the North Sea looks up to the year 2050. On the other hand, the Belgium marine plan considers the timeline 2020-2026.


MSP Strategies

  • What is the difference between a macro-regional strategy and a sea basin strategy?

    Since the first macro-regional strategy - EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region, was adopted in late 2009, there has been a growing interest towards developing integrated frameworks for countries and regions to address common challenges for a certain geographical area and maximise common assets. There are a number of similarities between the strategies as they are both place-based, relating to EU Member States and non-EU countries located in the same geographical area, they are focusing on common issues, solutions and actions of strategic relevance providing genuine added-value for the entire region, they are both encouraging strategic cooperation and coordination among policies, institutions and funding sources and their implementation requires an integrated approach establishing cross-sectoral cooperation and coordination mechanisms as well as multi-stakeholder dialogue.

    In contrast to this, the sea basin strategy typically sets up a structured framework of cooperation in relation to a given geographical area, developed by EU institutions, Member States, their regions and where appropriate, Third Countries which share a sea basin, taking into account the geographic, climatic, economic and political specificities of the sea basin. In terms of the actual strategy, the macro-regional strategy is initiated by Member States or regions and formally requested by the European Council to the European Commission. In contrary, the Sea-basin Strategy is initiated by the European Commission at the request of the regions and/or Member States. Finally, the macro-regional strategy addresses common challenges of a defined geographical area to achieve economic, social and territorial cohesion, and the sea basin strategy seeks to provide a more coherent approach to maritime issues, with increased coordination between different policy areas.

  • What is the difference between a strategy for MSP and the actual planning process?

    The development of a general strategy for MSP can be seen as an important preparatory stage for MSP development. It can complement the MSP vision if one exists (please also see the topic MSP visions). However, developing a strategy might be treated only as an initial part of a planning process itself. The ultimate goal of the planning process is allocation of the sea space whereas a general strategy rather facilitates placing MSP within the regulatory set-up of a country. A MSP strategy can also outline and help to agree on key goals, ambitions and expectations towards MSP. The development of such a strategy is not a compulsory part of the MSP planning process, as it is not required by the EU Directive establishing a framework for maritime spatial planning, and neither is the elaboration of a strategy suggested by key MSP handbooks such as PlanCoast or UNESCO. Thus the decision on developing a MSP general strategy should be taken on a case-by-case basis, comparing the costs and benefits. 

    So far there is no EU country that has developed such a specific MSP strategy. However, the existing good practices show the importance of anchoring MSP at the national strategic level. This can be done in several ways. Sea space can be integrated into national spatial strategies as it has been done in case of Poland – National Spatial Development Concept and the Netherlands  – National Policy Strategy for Infrastructure and Spatial Planning and the National Spatial Strategy. Sea space can be also part of the national or regional maritime policy. Examples are numerous, for instance in Ireland, Portugal  or the Västra Götaland region in Sweden. Another option is the development of national MSP scenarios of a cross-sector character as developed by Latvia. Finally, the impact of national policies on the use of the sea space can be evaluated. For instance within the BaltSeaPlan project, such an analysis has been undertaken for each Baltic Sea region country for all relevant policies and strategies, which are currently in force in the given country.

  • What are the basic elements of an MSP planning process?

    MSP planning processes can generally follow some basic steps to ensure appropriate consideration of important issues. It is important to keep in mind that a “one size fits all” approach that is appropriate for all MSP processes likely does not exist, as it depends on the context one is working in – specifically, existing governance frameworks and actors involved. Regardless, there are several overarching guidelines and real world examples for how an MSP process takes place which can help in formulating a planning process.

    The following resources provide guidance on how to conduct an MSP process:

    Although these four reference documents were prepared prior to the adoption of the EU MSP Directive, they are worth consulting as they lay out the basic steps and elements which need to be undertaken when conducting an MSP process. Many of the steps are to be done in an iterative way but they basically provide for an ideal foundation for developing an MSP planning process.

    The short film, MSP in a nutshell, also presents the concept and basic elements of MSP in an easy-to-understand, dynamic format.

    Elaborating an MSP Planning process will also depend on who, how and with how many resources each step is planned to be undertaken. This is contingent not only on the budget available, but also the specific situation in the geographic context in question with regards to existing governance structures; supporting institutions, available information/knowledge and expertise as well as the respective ‘issues’ at stake. Therefore, each of the referenced approaches includes initial steps to lay the groundwork for an MSP process, including defining roles, responsibilities and authority for the MSP process.

    Analysing the existing governance framework may be necessary to support these definitions, and such an analysis conducted as a ‘preliminary’ step for defining a planning process. Methods applicable to such an analysis include the Governance Analysis Framework from the MESMA project or Governance Baselines from the BALTSPACE project.

    Finally, the planning process itself should be adaptive, since most initiatives take a “learning by doing” approach which therefore requires that the process reviewed, evaluated and adapted. 

    For an explanation of how these basic elements have been used in an applied MSP process, please see the summary of the Latvian MSP process. 

  • How can a strategy support the forecasting of spatial determinations and interactions?

    Integrating MSP into the mainstream planning and programming of development at national, regional or macro-regional level helps to understand the demand for the sea space from various sectors, e.g. related to Blue Growth, conservation of the environment and/or social inclusion. It also allows extending the scope of cross-border interactions on land and sea. Moreover, it may provide a good basis for supporting integrative planning, engagement of stakeholders at initial planning stage as well as taking into account adaptation to climate change. It will also facilitate inclusion of maritime planning into the existing national and international regulatory framework, which governs a number of aspects of marine management and therefore provide basis for forecasting spatial determinations and interactions. This includes EU Directives such as the Marine Strategy Framework Directive and the Water Framework Directive; the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy governing commercial fishing rights and obligations; and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). 

    There are several good practices taking into consideration MSP relevant spatial determinations and interactions at a strategic level. Most of them are dealing with macro-thematic or multi-sectoral strategies, referring to coastal protection, integrated management of the coastal and marine systems, including Blue Growth aspects. Those attempts provide interesting starting points for forecasting spatial determinations and interactions of various kinds:  economic, social and environmental. In general forecasting at strategic level of MSP interactions and determinations is related more to exploiting tacit knowledge and engagement of stakeholders (revealing their interests and stakes) than to scientific modelling.

    The most general practices related to this topic deal with valorisation of the national maritime space on national or sea-basin wide level, such as the Irish Strategy: Harnessing our Ocean Wealth and the Portuguese National Strategy. Many good practices have an environmental focus putting good environmental status at the forefront, such as the Finnish Strategy, the Dutch National Water Plan or the IUCN Strategy. Some of these strategies already take the form of a “plan” to forecast the spatial conditions of development and to prioritize some uses and ensure cohesion. An example can be the Middle Bank Pilot Plan. Only few efforts of integrating MSP into the mainstream planning and programming put focus on institutional aspects. For instance the Bologna Charter 2012 and the related Joint Action Plan aimed at strengthening the role of the coastal administrations in the context of European policies and initiatives at the Mediterranean scale referring to: coastal protection, integrated management of the coastal and marine systems (including MSP and Blue Growth) and adaptation to climate change. Thus there is no 'one size fits all' model for forecasting and then taking into consideration spatial determinations and interactions at a strategic level. The choice depends on situation of each country, its development/conservation priorities and institutional set-up and experience. 

  • How to consider MPAs at a strategic level?

    Conservation issues are an important component of MSP. In many EU countries the MSP process is seen as an important contribution to achieving the goals and objectives of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive and the Water Framework Directive. The EU Directive establishing a framework for maritime spatial planning stipulates that due regard should be given to the various pressures in the establishment of maritime spatial plans. Human activities, but also climate change effects, natural hazards and shoreline dynamics such as erosion and accretion, can have severe impacts on marine ecosystems, leading to deterioration of environmental status, loss of biodiversity and degradation of ecosystem services. An MSP strategy could help to integrate these concerns into the planning process.

    There are several good practices of tackling MSP relevant environmental concerns at the strategic level.  For instance, the third part of the Finnish Marine Strategy 2016 assesses the sufficiency of the current measures to protect the marine environment and contains 29 new measures for achieving and maintaining a good environmental status, i.e. to include marine protected areas conservation objectives in MSPs. The Dutch National Water Plan describes the measures that must be taken to keep the Netherlands safe and habitable for current and future generations and to make the most of the opportunities that water has to offer. Important parts of the National Water Plan include, among others, the North Sea policy and the marine strategy based on the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. The Marine alien invasive species strategy for the MedPAN Network sets out the broad goals and objectives for the MedPAN network and it intends to support and coordinate with other related regional and local partners to assist MPAs for invasive species management. 

Cross-sector integration

  • How can one analyse the costs and benefits associated with a given set of maritime uses? 

    Cross-sector integration implies good knowledge of the implication, requirements and planning criteria for collocation of sea uses. In particular it is important to analyse costs and benefits of different combination of uses in different circumstances (e.g. legal, oceanographic, economic etc.). There are several tools and guidelines assisting planners in this process. E.g. Individual Stress Level Analysis - ISLA quantifies the impact of future activities on the specific activity, E.g. it allows to estimate the effects of future management on fisheries based on the closure of fishing grounds. BONUS BALTSPACE project will elaborate the guidance how to use a tool to analyse the distribution of costs and benefits associated with a given set of maritime uses.

    Also more comprehensive approaches do exist. The Latvian pilot plan provides a separate "Cost-benefit analysis for balancing sea use interests within the LV MSP process". The Seanergy 2020 project developed the study  “Cross-border MSP Case Study Benefits Assessment”; this shows how to evaluate the benefits of cross-border coordination of MSP, focusing in particular on offshore wind energy. Finally, Marine Planning: socio-economic study might help maritime planners, developers, local authorities and others to understand issues affecting coastal communities. It includes national level information and more detailed information for the East of England, also regarding parallel uses of the marine area and associated costs and benefits.

    Even more can be expected  in the future. The HORIZON MUSES project is expected to: (i) elaborate a comprehensive overview of opportunities (analysing related benefits) for multi-uses in given sea-basins; (ii) analyse perceived and real barriers to various forms of co-uses across all sea basins, (iii) define a multi-level action plan recommending priority issues to be tackled to overcome those barriers and exploit such opportunities.

    However, while looking for inspiration it is important to keep in mind that the  “one size approach fits all” should be avoided. In each case costs and benefits might look different. They depend of the level of development of a given area, stakeholder consciousness and even planning culture and experience. Thus they are context dependent.

  • What kind of tools are available to plan and manage the overlapping sea uses?

    MSP seeks for win-win solutions. However, this is possible in exceptional cases only. More frequently spatial conflicts prevail. Different sea users compete for the same see space. For instance, fishing can be hampered by any solid construction in the sea but also by the same token by an intensive navigation, underwater cultural heritage or underwater pipelines and cables. However, the same uses can bring also synergetic effects since underwater constructions with time might become artificial reefs: an important place for fishes to shelter. Therefore it is so important to analyse possible spatial conflicts and discuss trade-offs that might require political decisions as a part of the MSP process. The departure point is usually the mapping of sea uses, facilitating visualization of possible conflicts (and synergies). The COEXIST project offers a good example of a tool for mapping of activities - past, present, and future. The dedicated GIS software helps to analyse and visualise information on the location of the current and planned activities. It addresses the following questions: ‘Do overlapping activities exist?’, ‘Where to expect conflicts?’ and ‘How does a specific management result in a change of conflicts?’. Geo reference Interactions Database – GRID elaborated under the same project is a web-based flexible database connected with a number of tools (stress level and conflict score analyses) to review marine activities and interactions (conflicts and synergies). Whereas the Web-GIS platform for implementing MSP in Greece and Cyprus might be helpful for visualising conflicting interactions (considering both maritime and land-based activities and uses) and deriving density activity maps and/or conflicts maps. There are also several tools that might help quantifying the overlapping uses and calculate conflicts scores and other indicators (e.g. including costs). Examples are numerous. “Analysis of Conflict Scores” (tool developed by the COEXIST project) supports a (semi-) quantitative conflict analysis and can answer some questions such as how does the conflict score change with management options or did a changed management result in a change of conflicts. “The conflict score tool” (developed by the Adriplan project) is based on above. It allows to quantify the overlapping of uses, calculating the direct spatial conflict score (in the current and future scenarios) based on the COEXIST methodology. The method includes five consecutive steps: (i) identification of maritime uses; (ii) spatial normalization of uses on hexagonal grid; (iii) setting of temporal and spatial attributes for each maritime use; (iv) calculation of the co-existence score per each pair of maritime uses insisting in the same cell of analysis; (v) calculation of the total coexistence score per each cell of analysis.

    Individual Stress Level Analysis - ISLA also developed by the COEXIST project, quantifies the effects of future management options on concrete sea uses. Many pilot projects have also used the MARXAN software for planning new uses in a way that allows minimising spatial conflicts while achieving the agreed policy goals (e.g. on nature conservation, off-shore energy production or fishery). Results are available in the BaltSeaPlan project reports no. 29 and 30. The BONUS BALTSPACE project will elaborate further guidance on the application of MARXAN.

  • Are there samples available for written dispute resolution agreements? 

    Maritime ecosystem forms a unique continuum hardly affected by administrative borders. Exploitations of some ecosystem services in one country and resulting from these negative externalities may affect societal wellbeing and the state of the sea environment in other countries. The influence varies. Oils spills might travel quite a long distance, solid construction might change the transfer of sediments and thus affects coastal dynamics far away from the place of its location whereas laying of pipelines might hamper international navigation and affect ships from outside of a given sea basin. Therefore some conflicts would benefit from a formal dispute resolution. Its preparation is not an easy task.

    For instance in the Baltic Sea region the BaltSpace VISION 2030 endorsed by VASAB and HELCOM identified four topics required more intensive trans-boundary collaboration: offshore energy, fishery, nature conservation and navigation. Thus some Baltic Sea region countries several times have raised the questions of the need to establish some kind of a formal macro-regional agreement regulating those topics. Some preparatory work has been started under the international projects such as BalticLINES and BalticGrid. It is however, not clear whether they will results in some kind of a formal agreement or guidelines (good example of such recommendations is provided by Seanergy 2020 project).

    Another form of formal resolution of international spatial conflicts is making use of existing international treaties and convention. For instance, Norway has managed to reroute the international navigation potentially jeopardizing the environmental integrity of its coastal waters through the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) framework. However, there are also some good examples of bi-lateral and multi-lateral formal agreements of different nature and scale that help resolving some spatial conflicts. On a local scale one can study and follow the case of Wismar Bay. Through an intensive stakeholder process facilitated within the MSP framework tourism sector convinced the German nature protection authorities to allow the usage of the environmentally sensitive waters in the certain period of time. Sea tourists (mainly boat owners) subscribed themselves under the ban of not entering those sea areas in the time in which they are closed. At a larger national scale one can study the UK experience in preparing different types of agreements.  In UK wind developers and/or submarine cable companies and fishery industry representatives develop written agreements, such as Co-existence Plans (agreed-upon communication protocols; measures for avoidance, mitigation, and cooperation; and dispute resolution), Memoranda of Understanding (MOU; articulate goals for engaging with fishermen, for example, on routing cables in nonessential Fishery areas), and Statements of Common Ground (summarize discussions on areas of agreement and remaining/unresolved conflicts). Each form of conflicts resolution shows particular strength in different circumstances. For instance the Co-existence Plans are mainly linked to the offshore wind, WOC (World Ocean Council) or grid-nets while Memoranda of Understanding work well with regard to routing cables in non-essential Fishery areas with consent from fishermen.

  • What are some examples of cross-sectoral synergies and multi-use opportunities ?

    Sustainable and efficient use of maritime space and natural resources can be achieved through a combination of different maritime uses at the same location or with multi-use offshore platforms. Combining uses, both in close proximity, through joint operations, or on the same platform, can reduce space demand and potentially offer significant socio-economic and environmental benefits.

    The Eu sea basins offer different potentials, unique resources, maritime sectors and capacity that support the formation of multi-use combinations. The MUSES project, therefore reviewed and analysed a variety of multi-use combinations at the national and sea basin level. The concept of multi-use is still relatively new and has been mostly advanced by research institutes/commercial enterprises which is also the participants involved in the stakeholder analysis.

    The MUSES project Multi-Use Analysis report provides a clear overview of multi-use potential (including environmental, economic and societal benefits) for 13 multi-use combinations. It also highlights major barriers (inappropriate regulations, operational, environmental, health and safety, societal and legal aspects) stalling the transition of multi-use of ocean from a concept to real life recognition and practical implementation. The report builds on efforts undertaken over the course of one year, on the sea basin, national and case study levels, including stakeholder input and four local and EU wide stakeholder workshops. The report highlights good practices and case studies across EU related to multi-use concepts.

    Combination of offshore wind, wave and tide energy generation (usually as part of the same physical platform), with the purpose of maximal energy generation from the resources at the given sea space, is something that developers are increasingly considering. For example, there is already some experience in combination of wave and tide energy in the Northern part of Scotland (Pentland Firth and Orkney waters), while a pilot test hybrid wind and wave technology is to be commissioned (Cathness).

    Different approaches can be noticed across countries in regard to integration of fisheries within offshore wind farms. On the other hand, in some countries, new tourism activities have already been established in relation to the OWF (i.e. renewable energy museums and visitor centres, boat tours, etc.).

    Tourism combined with other activities including UCH (e.g. diving and walking trails), and offshore wind (e.g. boat tours for OWF sightseeing), provides additional and innovative tourism opportunities that could potentially sustain tourism sector all year round. Such initiatives could also provide an additional sustainable source of funding for the underwater cultural heritage (UCH) and environmental protection.

    In ‘remote’ areas in Eastern Atlantic with little access to grid, combining aquaculture with wave energy generation (Mingary Bay, Scotland, UK) is driven by the need to use generated energy directly for the purpose of aquaculture operations.

MSP Options and scenarios

  • Can you provide examples of countries that have made use of scenario development as part of their MSP process?

    Considering different scenarios for development is a common tool employed when formulating a Maritime Spatial Plan. Different scenarios, which primarily focus on different driving forces can affect spatial use in the maritime area and its marine resources.

    The Maritime Spatial Plan (MSP) for the Internal Waters, Territorial Waters and Exclusive Economic Zone of the Republic of Latvia was published in 2016.  In the development of the MSP four alternative scenarios were put forward identifying different maritime development options, which were then strategically assessed in order to arrive at an optimal sea use solution, which was acceptable to all stakeholders and society. In the Latvian example Strategic scenarios for use of the sea, the following four scenarios were assessed:

    • Economic growth
    • Social well-being
    • Resilient marine ecosystem
    • Development within common space of Baltic Sea Region

    The practice description accessed via the link above outlines the objectives, methodology and results of this example.

    The MEDTRENDS – Future Trends in the Mediterranean Sea Project was a 12-month project, which was completed in May 2015 and implemented in early 2016. The practice Scenarios of maritime economy for the Mediterranean from the MEDTRENDS project illustrates scenarios of maritime economic activity over the next 20 years. The project analysed the existing situation and potential future trends in 10 maritime economic sectors along with their drivers and environmental impacts. The project examined these sectors at the Mediterranean regional or sub-regional (Adriatic Sea) scales and at the level of 8 Mediterranean countries (Croatia, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Slovenia and Spain). A series of reports were published providing an analysis of the existing economic sectors and users of existing marine and coastal resources as well as the current and potential future interactions between sectors in order to reflect their spatial extent. Reports have been created for each individual country as well as on a regional and sub-regional (Adriatic) scale. MEDTRENDS scenarios and other project outcomes within the next implementation of the MSP process in the Mediterranean.

    The GAUFRE (Towards a Spatial Structure Plan for Sustainable Management of the Sea) project team has used a software to develop a ‘What if’ model to potentially be used by decision makers. Modelling allows integrated and interdisciplinary assessments of changes over time in a multitude of causal relationships. They allow for the exploration of different scenarios and policy options. MSP expands beyond the boundaries of a single department and requires collaboration between several departments and agencies on both federal and local levels. Stella Architect, a software for modelling and interactive simulations was used for the GAUFRE project. It offers the ability to create holistic system diagrams that can be simulated over time. The systematic view allows the examination of the system and its behaviour to determine where changes are beneficial and to avoid decisions that have a negative impact. Additionally, modelling allows the realization of interactions that are not so obvious at first sight and allows for clear visual communication of results. Insights should be structured in an engaging way to engage with the target audience.

    In 2016 the Dutch MSP Authorities commissioned the Dutch Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) to develop Long Term Scenarios for the North Sea for 2050. The development process used participatory mapping. A total of 19 GIS base maps were produced and used during the workshop to capture the input from a moderated group of experts. The drivers for the scenario development do not focus on the MSP solely, but are overarching, aiming to include many new laws and policies and assisting stakeholders in reaching their ambition. To increase awareness about scenarios for the North Sea and stimulate long term forward thinking, a movie was produced during a creative workshop at the International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam (IABR). The movie, called 2050 - An Energetic Odyssey, focuses on energy transition.


  • What kind of decision-support tools are available with regards to Maritime Spatial Planning?

    According to (Sprague & Carlson, 1982) decision support tools or Decision Support Systems (DSS) are defined as interactive computer-based system designed to help decision makers utilise data and models to solve unstructured problems. Decision support tools are commonly separated into 4 distinct classes according to their focus as follows:

    • Model driven DSS – are often more complex systems using mathematical, statistical or simulation models to generate results.
    • Data driven DSS– do not require a computer model rather allow users to use data to provide specific answers to specific questions for example by selecting options within a database in order to generate a result.
    • Communications driven DSS – facilitate communication between different stakeholders to assist in providing different outcomes. An example of this could be online collaboration systems.
    • Knowledge driven DSS – (also known as expert DSS) use a series of stored rules and facts in order to generate results. These systems are designed to produce results, which mimic the way experts reach decisions.

    Below is a list of examples of different decision support tools that are available:

    MARXAN site selection tool in MSP

    Developed by the University of Queensland Marxan is a model driven decision support tools which is most commonly be used in the selection of site for nature protection. It is reported to be the most widely used decision support software used for conservation planning globally and used in 184 countries globally (Marxan.net). As part of the BaltSeaPlan the Marxan software tool was tested in MSP for site selection of i.e. offshore wind power and/or fishery areas.

    DISPLACE Model for spatial fishery planning and effort displacement

    The DISPLACE project developed a model based platform primarily for research purposes aimed to transform the fishermen’s detailed knowledge into models, evaluation tools. The software also has the facility to incorporate other utilization of the sea including but not limited to energy production, transport and recreational uses.

    DeCyDe for Sustainability Policy tool

    The DeCyDe for Sustainability tool is a data-driven, spread sheet based set of indicators and decision support tool that allows coastal communities and Authorities to self-assess their progress towards sustainability goals.

    FisherMap - Mapping the Grounds: recording fishermen’s use of the seas

    FisherMap is an example of a communication driven decision support tool, which aimed to map the nature and extent of fishing activities and fishermen’s knowledge of marine ecosystems. The tool developed by Finding Sanctuary a regional development partnership aimed to assist them in developing a network of Marine Protected Areas around the coasts and seas of South West England.

    A series of interviews were conducted with individual fishermen who also highlighted they areas they used on maps along with providing information of the types of equipment used, species targeted and other relevant information. The results were fed into a GIS database and maps digitised. The information was used to create summary maps, which were made publicly available. 


    [1] Sprague, R. H. & E. D. Carlson. Building Effective Decision Support Systems. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1982.

    [2] Vanessa Stelzenmüller, Janette Lee, Andy South, Jo Foden, Stuart I. Rogers. Practical tools to support marine spatial planning: A review and some prototype tools, Marine Policy, Volume 38, March 2013, Pages 214-227


  • What tools and methods are available for developing and presenting scenarios in MSP? 

    The choice of scenario techniques depends on the overall aims of the process, the target audience (e.g. policy makers, industry, or public in general), geographical scale considered and the time and resources available within the responsible organisation. Several techniques can be combined and/or coupled with modelling and simulation using, for example, InVEST or ExtendSim software. Analysis of scenarios is also often conducted through SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) or PEST (political, economic, socio-cultural and technological) analysis. Scenarios can take different forms including a story or “narrative”, with maps, graphics, drawings, pictures, etc. 

    The 'Handbook for developing Visions in MSP' provides multiple examples of scenario development processes and relevant literature and scenario toolboxes from other relevant fields such as sectoral and urban planning. 

    Some of the methods described in the handbook inlcude

    SketchMatch - developed by Dutch Government Service for Land and Water management (Dienst Landelijk Gebied, DLG) for the project "Room for the River in Cat’s Bend, Romania", was described in the handbook. This interactive method was was applied in Eforie and Sfantu Gheorghe study cases to identify and visualize potential development paths and facilitate the decision-making process for managers, policy makers and local stakeholders. The aim of the SketchMatch was to lay the basis for so-called ‘spatial development sketches' for integrated MSP in the Black Sea region.

    Scenario backcasting - an exercise in which stakeholders choose one or several future images as the starting point for their analysis and subsequently, in working backwards to the present situation, interactively explore which interventions are needed to realise this future. 

    Evaluation of variables - matrices for evaluating variables according to their degree of unpredictability, degree of impact and strength and directivity of impact. 

    Microsites - the Celtic Seas Partnership future trends used an interactive online platform to present their scenarios. This website allows users to manually manipulate the targets, thereby creating different scenarios, encouraging the user to re ect on the process. The MEDTRENDS project also illustrated and mapped the main scenarios of marine economic performance in the Med-EU countries for the next 20 years. This project also uses an interactive online platform to show an in- depth analysis of the current situation and future trends in four main marine economic sectors, their drivers and environmental impacts. 

    VALMER project has developed a Scenario Toolbox with a comperhansive description of specific tools that can be used in a scenario development process. The toolbox provides concrete examples of implementation and supporting documents for an effective implementation of the tools.

Multi-scalar approach to MSP

  • Which EU Member States apply a multi-scalar approach to MSP?

    Several EU countries consider a multi-scalar approach to MSP under a variety of different situations and contexts, as described in the Countries section of the MSP Platform website. The following examples can be considered (last update: spring 2018): 

    • In Sweden, three distinct plans for separate areas, covering the territorial sea from 1 nm outward of the base line and the EEZ, are under preparation by the same national authority; while coastal regions also have the right to prepare their plans up to 12 nm (see Carl Dahlberg’s presentation at the "Maritime Spatial Planning in Small Sea Spaces" organized by the EU MSP Platform in Portorož – Slovenia on 15-16 March 2018);
    • In Poland, one plan covering almost the entire sea space and additional separate local plans for lagoons and ports are under preparation (with no hierarchy between these plans), in the future also the “large” plan can be limited in space and if necessary its parts can be replaced with more detailed plans.
    • In Estonia, two legally binding MSP pilot plans have been adopted for two small sea areas (the area around Hiiu island and Pärnu Bay), which now need to be integrated into the overall Estonian plan that is currently under preparation (see Anni Konsap’s presentation at the "Maritime Spatial Planning in Small Sea Spaces" organized by the EU MSP Platform in Portorož – Slovenia on 15-16 March 2018);

    • In Germany, there is no hierarchy between the different plans; e.g. in the Baltic Sea the plan prepared by Mecklenburg-Vorpommern for its 12 nm zone (and equally for the Schleswig-Holstein) is not under a hierarchical order of the plans prepared by the Federal Government for the EEZ in the Baltic and North Sea (see Holger Janßen’s presentation at the "Maritime Spatial Planning in Small Sea Spaces" organized by the EU MSP Platform in Portorož – Slovenia on 15-16 March 2018);

    • In Finland, the national MSP process has identified four planning areas bringing different regions together (including the EEZ and territorial waters), while territorial waters are also part of the planning mandate of coastal municipalities, with overlap among different levels (see Tiina Tihlman’s presentation at the "Maritime Spatial Planning in Small Sea Spaces" organized by the EU MSP Platform in Portorož – Slovenia on 15-16 March 2018);

    • In the UK, the preparation of marine plans is the responsibility of the respective governments within the UK. For example, Scotland has prepared the Scotland’s National Marine Plan, which provides a single framework for managing Scotland’s seas. This plan will be supplemented by eleven Regional Marine Plans - two of which two have been developed so far - prepared by the Marine Planning Partnerships;

    • In Italy, national guidelines for the preparation of maritime spatial plans have been recently finalized and three plans are going to be developed for three distinct marine areas, with the possibility to also develop small scale, nested plans for hotspot sub-areas.

    • In France, the National Strategy for the Sea and the Coast (NSSC) was adopted in 2017; each of the four French maritime regions are called to elaborate a strategic document (Stratégie de Façade Maritime) under the coordination of a national level methodological guideline (see Laurent Courgeon’s presentation at the "Maritime Spatial Planning in Small Sea Spaces" organized by the EU MSP Platform in Portorož – Slovenia on 15-16 March 2018).

    The links between the plans developed under the same multi-scalar process may be different in nature. They could include a national strategy (e.g. the Portuguese National Ocean Strategy 2013-2020), national guidelines for vertical and/or horizontal coordination of plans (e.g. the Dutch Policy Document on the North Sea 2009-2015), and/or a national integrated plan (e.g. the Irish strategy Harnessing Our Ocean; the Dutch Integrated Management Plan for the North Sea 2015).


  • How can one achieve integrated planning process and coherence of plans under a multi-scalar approach?

    The plans prepared under a multi-scalar approach should be coordinated and coherent in terms of objectives, methods (e.g. involvement of stakeholders), assumptions (e.g. continuation of shipping routes) and provisions. Coordination and coherence should be guaranteed both vertically with the overarching plan (e.g. under a nested approach), and horizontally among the different neighbouring/overlapping sub-plans

    Developing a common vision and/or strategy, including identification of common values and strategic interests/objectives, for different planning areas can provide a base for coordination of plans under a multi-scalar approach. The ‘Handbook on Visions’ - prepared by the EU MSP Platform - can support planners in developing such future visions. A common vision allows for a systematic approach to MSP that considers a larger marine ecosystem that crosses boundaries between different planning areas (either overlapping or not). 

    Timing is also an important factor, which needs to be coordinated. For instance, alignment of timing was indicated as one of the most relevant challenges to improve coherence among the Swedish national MSP plan and the inter-municipal joint plan for territorial waters developed in northern Bohuslän region (see Carl Dahlberg’s presentation at the "Maritime Spatial Planning in Small Sea Spaces" organized by the EU MSP Platform in Portorož – Slovenia on 15-16 March). Aligned timing with closely related policies, such as MSFD, would also facilitate a better integration of these policies (see for example slide n. 6 in Laurent Courgeon’s presentation). However, this is a challenge due to different timelines and reporting requirements for both directives as well as often different authorities being responsible. Planning under a multi-scalar approach requires an integrated stocktaking assessment of the entire planning area. This should be coherent with the more detailed sub-area assessments. Ensuring coherence of stocktaking at different scales not only implies data coherence, but also coherence of methods, indicators and approaches between the different planning processes. Shared tools can improve the coherence of stocktaking among different plans under a multi-scalar approach. Many tools are available for integrated assessment in general, and particularly for cumulative impacts assessment. A roundtable on this topic was organized in early 2018 by the EU MSP Platform. 

  • How to deal with the multiple stakeholder dimension under a multi-scalar approach?

    A multi-scalar approach to MSP calls for specific tools to engage with stakeholders at different levels. Engaging stakeholders at the national level generally requires a more formal approach, with specific methods (e.g. formal meetings, circulation of official documents). Instead, stakeholders at the local level (including local representatives of sectors, NGOs, etc.) would require more direct and informal, but highly efficient methods (e.g. focus groups, working groups, informal interviews, web-based dialogue platforms, informal fora). For a multi-scalar planning approach to be successful, interactions and exchanges between groups at different levels (from national to local and the other way around) or among different sub-areas (horizontal dimension) must be ensured.

    The importance to identify common values between national and local scale has been pointed out as baseline for marine planning: see for example Shona Turnbull’s presentation on MSP in the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters given at the "Maritime Spatial Planning in Small Sea Spaces" organized by the EU MSP Platform in Portorož – Slovenia on 15-16 March (ref. slides 9-10)  and Carl Dahlberg's presentation on northern Bohuslän region in Sweden given at the same workshop (ref. slides 2, 5, 8).

    Achieving a correct balance of interests of stakeholders acting at different scales is a key issue to deal with in the multi-scalar approach to MSP, including a clear understanding and balanced representation of the different levels of power, and avoiding under- or over-estimation of degrees of power. 

    An adaptive planning approach including various iterations of the stakeholder engagement process and transparent identification of MSP benefits and constraints (at the various planning levels) might lead to better understanding and reconciliation of different interests. 

  • What kind of tools are available to address challenges of MSP under a multi-scalar approach?

    Some examples of tools to support multi-scalar dialogue are available. For instance, a Latvian capacity building effort, which pays special attention to all stakeholders including smaller groups with limited resources and capacities[1], or the web application Boundary-GIS Geoportal that was developed within the BaltSeaPlan project, could support stakeholder involvement. The web application allows any kind of stakeholder to view the current planning status of an area and to comment upon them. The user can do so without any specific IT skills. 

    Among the available experiences of integrated, multi-scale assessment, the NEAT tool(Nest Environmental status Assessment Tool Methodology) developed under the DEVOTES project can be mentioned. This tool can help to determine how pressures from human activities and climatic influences can affect marine ecosystems and identify indicators available to assess biodiversity, specifically in a nested approach context. However, it should be noted that the uptake and concrete use of these tools in the real and formal MSP processes is still very limited, stressing the importance of improving factors that can support the transfer of research-based tools to real MSP practice.

    However, it should be noted that the operational use of these and other tools in a real MSP multi-scalar process need to be tested and accurately verified.

    [1]See Zaucha J. 2014. The key to governing the fragile Baltic Sea, Riga: VASAB; available at http://www.vasab.org/index.php/maritime-spatial-planning/msp-book-2014

MSP Sectors

  • ALL SECTORS: What are required capability or site suitability parameters for human activities in offshore environments?

    Site suitability parameters (how suitable is a given site for certain activities) may relate to the physical and biological characteristics of an area, and are relevant to the type of activity that is being planned. It is important to keep in mind that site suitability parameters will vary significantly depending on the local conditions and the type of activity considered. For example, offshore wind arrays must take account of the wind resource, water depth and proximity to the shore, in order to minimise grid connection distance (see http://www.windpowerengineering.com/projects/guidelines-selecting-sites). Aquaculture farms must take account of currents, water quality (e.g. turbidity, nutrients) and nearby sensitive species (see for example suitability maps developed from the COEXIST project). A careful analysis should therefore be carried out of the demands of the activity in question and the relevant constraint criteria for the area of interest.

    During an MSP process, it is recommended that the context of a defined area is assessed and then late further refined– this is commonly referred to as a stocktake (see for example the Handbook on Integrated Maritime Spatial Planning developed from the Plan Coast project). Information collected during the stocktake is then analysed, such as through modelling of data per site suitability parameters, including for example a cumulative impacts assessment (see for example the Adriplan Cumulative Impact Tool). This information is then used to establish or recommend suitable areas for certain activities.

    Site suitability parameters are usually identified in the early stages of MSP processes. Some documents developed during an MSP process may lay the foundation for development of a statutory MSP plan, but were themselves not formally adopted. For example, the Portuguese Plano de Ordenamento do Espaço Marítimo (POEM) is a study that served as a precursor to Portugal’s statutory MSP plan, by laying out the economic, environmental and social importance of Portugal’s mainland sea area, showing existing and potential uses and their integrated planning and adaptive management. Pilot MSP plans can have a specific focus on a particular sector, such as the pilot plan for the Southern Middle Bank on the Swedish/Polish border developed as part of the PartiSeaPate project. In terms of adopted plans, the German MSP plans for the North Sea and Baltic Sea contain precise information on the site suitability parameters for given sectors, as well as their accompanying SEAs (North Sea and Baltic Sea).

  • SHIPPING: What rights does shipping have in international law that MSP need to take into account?

    Traditionally, ships have been had the right to use marine space with very few restrictions. In the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and on the High Seas the principle of freedom of navigation applies. This principle of customary international law has been codified in Article 87.1 of the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). In the territorial sea, ships have the right to innocent passage (Article 8 UNCLOS). In straits that are used for international navigation, vessels “enjoy the right for transit passage” (Article 38 UNCLOS). However, there are exceptions to the rights to free navigation. According to Articles 56 and 60 UNCLOS, coastal states may construct artificial islands as well as installations and structures in their EEZ and establish safety zones around them, which may not be navigated in.  However, interference with internationally recognised shipping routes (declared by the International Maritime Organization) may not be caused. For MSP this means that designated shipping routes have to be kept free of other incompatible uses, because their use by vessels is recommended or even mandatory. Different types of shipping routes can be found on the IMO’s website.

  • SHIPPING: How to designate or change an official shipping route within an MSP process?

    Shipping routes are a means to improve the safety of navigation, e.g. in congested areas. The responsibility of International Maritime Organization (IMO) for establishing shipping routes is enshrined in International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS). Countries intending to set up or change a shipping route in their EEZ (e.g. as a results of an MSP process) or on the high seas have to present a concrete proposal to the IMO’s Sub-Committee on Navigation, Communication and Search and Rescue. This body evaluates the proposal and gives recommendations regarding its adoption. The decision on the adoption of the shipping route is taken by the Maritime Safety Committee, which represents all IMO member states.  In territorial water, shipping routes can be established and changed by the coastal state taking into account the guidance of the IMO (Article 22 UNCLOS). For straits, the responsibility for designating shipping routes lies with the coastal states, but the IMO plays a consultative role. For maritime spatial planners, it is important to note that rerouting of an official shipping routing is a process that takes time. Depending on their location, the IMO needs to be involved directly or indirectly.

  • SHIPPING: What impacts of other uses on shipping should maritime spatial planners take into account?

    Any fixed installations (wind farms, aquaculture, offshore oil and gas) in the vicinity of an area used by ships (regardless whether it is an officially designated shipping route or not) may have adverse effects on shipping activity. Buffer zones have to be established around fixed installations to prevent collisions of vessels with these structures as well as with each other. These zones have to be of sufficient width to allow for safe navigation taking into account the traffic density (including leisure boats and service vessels to the offshore structures) and the dimensions of the large vessels sailing in this area. Furthermore, safety must to be maintained in difficult situations. In heavy weather visibility may be reduced, which increases the risk of collision.  In bad weather or emergency situations, ships may need to deviate from the course or find shelter. In addition, wind farms may cause interference on radar display.

  • SHIPPING: What impacts of shipping on the environment should maritime spatial planners take into account?

    Although the emission of exhaust gases by ships is increasingly being regulated, some emissions do not only contribute to climate change, but can also determine local impacts on coastal areas and related coastal and marine activities (e.g. coastal tourism or recreational activities as sailing). Noise pollution from ships negatively affects marine mammals. In shallow areas, shipping causes damages to the seabed and negatively affects the benthic ecosystem. In case of collision and groundings, the considerable areas may be polluted through oil spills; oil spill risk assessment is certainly one of the most relevant environmental implications of shipping to be taken into account in MSP. In addition, sub-optimal routing increases fuel consumption and, consequently, contributes to climate change. Furthermore, traffic flows may change at the expense of shipping and in favour of other, less environmentally friendly transport modes.

  • SHIPPING: How does one determine the width of a shipping route?

    The width of a shipping route has to be determined by a number of factors, including traffic density and size of vessels sailing on this route. There are several approaches for determining the actual width, however, it should encompass the widths of the path foreseen for actual navigation, a safety zone adjacent to this paths (to allow for turn-around) as well as the 500 metres safety zone around installations and structures required by rule 8 of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLLREGS). The safety zone in between the path for navigation and the 500 metres safety zone serves as a buffer in emergency situations. It must be wide enough to allow for a turnaround of a vessel.


  • SHIPPING: Which developments may have an impact on the spatial requirements for shipping in the future?

    Several trends might influence shipping and the established shipping routes in the near future. Most important trends are: usage of larger ships, increase in traffic flows and climate change effects in terms of re-routing.

    A first trend is the increase in ship size. During the last 10 years, ships have become larger. For example, in 2000 an average container vessel transported 8,000 TEU, while an average container vessel in 2013 already carried 18,000 TEU. The container in 2000 had an average length of 300m, while in 2013 the ship was on average 400m long. The larger ships require more room for manoeuvring and space for this activity needs to be available. It is expected that in the near future ships will become even larger and therefore require more space. In MSP plans sufficient room for shipping and manoeuvring needs to be considered.

    A second trend is the increase in short sea shipping (SSS) services. Although short sea shipping suffered substantial from the economic crisis (2008), volumes are steadily increasing again . It is expected that also in the coming years the tonnes transported by SSS will increase. An increase in the tonnes transported by sea, leads to an increase in the number of ship movements, which in turn leads to busier shipping lanes.

    If this trend continues, it might lead to a need for expanding the current ship’s routeing in order to ensure safe maritime shipping. If MSP plans do not sufficiently consider the possibility of expanding shipping lanes, maritime traffic might come in conflict with other functions realised at sea.

    A third trend is climate change. In recent years, the weather becomes more extreme (heavier rain and storms), which also affects shipping. According to IMO Resolution A.528(13) weather routeing is important and could even take precedence over regular ship’s routeing. The aim of weather routeing is to ensure that ships are provided with the optimum routes, so that they can avoid bad weather. In order to allow weather routeing, space needs to be available, so that ships can temporarily deviate from the well-known shipping lanes. In case the space needed is already occupied by other maritime functions (e.g. offshore wind or oil & gas) deviating might not be possible. In addition, climate change may trigger an opening of the Arctic route during summer, which may later sea traffic patterns in some areas.

    Unmanned shipping is a development that will also have an impact on MSP in the future. New results from BalticLINes will be incorporated later on.

    Closely related to shipping are the anchorage areas at sea. Anchoring at sea has become more common recently and dedicated anchoring areas to exist throughout Europe. Ships can use the available spots, for instance, when no space in their port of destination is available or, as is common in the oil industry, when the owner wants to speculate on the price of crude oil (on spec).

    In order to ensure that anchoring is done in a safe way it is crucial that no cables and pipes are located in the dedicated areas (otherwise ship anchors can damage them). Also as anchoring at sea becomes more popular additional space for anchoring is required. While preparing a maritime spatial plan, it is important to consider the potential extending the anchoring areas. It is also important to ensure that new anchoring areas are located in areas where it is safe for ships to anchor (e.g. depth and currents are important).

  • OFFSHORE WIND ENERGY: Is sectoral planning for offshore wind energy the same as maritime spatial planning?

    Some sectoral plans have focused solely on identifying the most suitable locations for offshore wind arrays in national waters. For example, in the UK there has been a series of strategic plans used to inform the leasing of areas seabed for offshore wind development, based on analysis of ecological, social and technical spatial constraints. For example, in 2011 the Scottish Government prepared a strategic-level plan setting out potentially suitable areas within Scottish territorial waters.

    However, maritime spatial planning is a distinct process, which addresses all maritime activities within the boundaries of the planning area, and seeks to coordinate and balance the different uses. This may include offshore wind energy where the sector is supported by national policy. The MSP Directive states that the production of energy from renewable sources may be an activity to take into consideration in maritime spatial plans, alongside other uses and interests.

    Where the development of offshore wind is an important part of national strategies, maritime spatial plans have given special attention to offshore wind energy as a potential growth industry. For example, Germany’s federal Spatial Offshore Grid Plan takes a sectoral planning approach and is closely linked to the Maritime Spatial Plan for the German exclusive economic zone in the North and Baltic Seas set out the promotion of offshore wind energy as an overriding principle and they designate priority areas for wind array development. At the same time, the inter-relation between offshore wind arrays and other uses, such as shipping, is given careful consideration.

    Sectoral plans, such as that of the Scottish Government, may be a useful precursor to MSP, contributing important tools and information, to more comprehensive maritime spatial planning.  For example, also in the UK, the Crown Estate has developed a spatial data system for identifying the areas of least constraint for offshore wind energy development.

  • OFFSHORE WIND ENERGY: How has maritime spatial planning been undertaken to support the development of offshore wind energy?

    Several maritime spatial plans have been completed in countries where offshore wind energy development is most advanced, especially in northern Europe.  Wind energy has been accommodated in different ways, reflecting the nature of the plans themselves. Germany’s federal plans for its exclusive economic zone in the North and Baltic Seas, for example, set out detailed regulations for the development of offshore wind arrays and allocates precise areas where their construction is prioritised.  These are generally defined by surrounding shipping lanes.

    The Netherlands’ plan for the Dutch section of the North Sea reiterates national policy and targets for offshore wind energy. It also designates suitable areas, but then provides an assessment framework that should be followed for determining the precise location of wind arrays, taking into account surrounding uses.

    The UK’s first completed maritime spatial plans, for part of the North Sea, provide information and policy guidance for the development of offshore wind arrays, setting out the conditions under which they would be permitted.  They also indicate strategic areas that have already been identified as suitable for development, but do not precisely allocate any sites for arrays.

    Some experimental approaches have also been used.  For example, in the BaltSeaPlan project, the decision support tool Marxan was used to suggest the optimum locations for offshore wind arrays in a transnational area in the southern Baltic Sea, taking into account the wind resource, cable costs, other uses and environmental constraints.

  • OFFSHORE WIND ENERGY: Can maritime spatial planning be used to develop synergies between offshore wind energy and other uses?

    The MSP Directive promotes the coexistence of relevant activities and uses. By supporting the integration of different sectors / interests to optimise the use of oceans space and resources, it provides a framework for exploring co-existence of offshore wind and other sectors. This includes ‘co-existence’ in the use of the same space such as the management of fishing activity within wind farm arrays, as well as ‘co-location’ where multiple uses can be combined, e.g. with shared infrastructure.

    A number of scientific studies have been undertaken to explore the potential synergies between offshore wind energy development and other maritime uses and interests. These include the possibilities within wind arrays for: aquaculture; small-scale fishing; marine nature conservation and habitat creation; and tourism. For example, a study by the University of Hull, UK, reviews the potential for co-location of offshore wind arrays with marine protected areas, aquaculture and fishing. There is also some evidence of wind arrays acting as de-facto no-take zones, allowing localised recovery of fish stocks; also of turbine foundations acting as artificial reefs and being colonised by vegetation and shellfish.

    There are currently no well-known examples of formal arrangements for the co-use of wind array sites. However, the SeaPlan project has developed a framework for cooperation between offshore wind energy and commercial fishing organisations, including agreements such as as possible access for fishing, which could be used as the basis for developing such arrangements.

  • FISHERIES & AQUACULTURE: Which tools and/or datasets exist for mapping fisheries to support MSP?

    Tools and/or datasets for mapping fishery characteristics are available at different scales and resolutions, including the following representative examples:

    • The Global Record of Stocks and Fisheries service is available through the on-going BlueBRIDGE project Virtual Research Environment (access subject to authorization). This service is the basis for mapping regional (and global) FAO indicators on the status of stocks and fisheries.
    • The European Atlas of the Seas includes information on Fishing Fleets by port for Europe.
    • High-resolution map of fishing intensity covering all EU waters is available online through the Mapping Fishing Activities (MFA) GIS tool, prepared by JRC provided by Blue Hub - Exploiting Maritime Big Data.
    • The General Fishery Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) provides data and maps related to fishery effort and fishing areas for the Mediterranean Sea.
    • The MEFEPO - North Western Waters Atlas provides an overview of the North Western Waters ecosystem, including fishery and other human activities, in addition to a lot of information on various ecosystem components. This information is provided in non-technical language and intended to help policy makers, managers and stakeholders in decision-making.
    • The UK Marine Management Organisation’s "Marine Information System” shows the density of fishing vessels in different areas of the United Kingdom over time. This allows fishing information to be seen in conjunction with layers of information for other maritime activities and marine conditions.
    • In the framework of the ECOAST project the DISPLACE fish and fishery model was applied to the Northern Adriatic Sea to assess the effects of a suite of five spatial management scenarios aiming to reduce conflicts between different fishery activities (trawling vs small-scale fishery) and the pressure on four demersal fish stocks of high commercial interest.
  • FISHERIES & AQUACULTURE: What guidance is available to support the siting of aquaculture activities within a MSP process?

    A Guidance of Better Integration of Aquaculture, Fisheries, and other Activities in the Coastal Zone is available through the COEXIST project. This guidance aims at facilitating better integration of aquaculture, fisheries and other activities in the coastal zone by the identification and application of appropriate spatial management tools. Twelve operational tools are described. One of this is specifically focused on siting aquaculture activities: Suitability Maps (Tool 9) that helps to identify the suitable aquaculture sites, taking into account the environmental parameters of aquaculture species.

    SISAQUA is an application for aquaculture siting first developed in the SISQUONOR project (2013-2015). SISAQUA is based on three main phases:

    • Management and visualization of spatial data (measurements in situ, satellite, digital models, etc.);
    • Combined analysis of these data (creating indicators);
    • Dynamic user interface. To date, SISAQUA manages data layers produced by IFREMER and is focused on shellfish farming, which represents the major aquaculture activity in the area

    Up-to-date tools to support inclusion of aquaculture in MSP are expected from the H2020 on-going AQUASPACE project, which represents the continuation and extension of the SISQUONOR project. AQUASPACE aims to provide increased space of high water quality for aquaculture by adopting the Ecosystem Approach to Aquaculture (EAA) using Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) to deliver food security and increased employment opportunities through economic growth.

    Spatial planning guidelines for aquaculture were produced as a result of the Aquabest project. This was tested at two case study sites in Sweden, and identified several suitable aquaculture locations at each site. While the manual was developed with the Baltic Sea Region in mind, the case studies may provide suggested steps for aquaculture planning in other contexts.

    Allocated Zones for Aquaculture (AZA) are defined as marine areas where the development of aquaculture has priority over other uses and are therefore primarily dedicated to this activity. Starting from an extensive review of several experiences of spatial planning assisting the aquaculture development, a proposed framing procedure to properly design and manage AZA is available. The procedure seeks to minimise environmental and socio-economical adverse impacts as well as conflicts with other uses.

  • FISHERIES & AQUACULTURE: Are there examples of how to integrate fishery concerns into MSP?

    Spatial information on fishing effort has been included in a number of MSP exercises. Examples include:

    • The freely accessible Marine Management Organisation’s Management Information System, which shows the density of fishing vessels in different areas over time. This allows fishing information to be seen in conjunction with layers of information for other maritime activities and marine conditions.
    • Fishery information and maps are included also in other information systems, such as the Adriplan Data Portal
    • Fishery information and maps can also be found in the Baltic Sea data and map service provided by HELCOM
    • The Portuguese MSP study (POEM) involved the participation of representatives of the fishing industry and their concerns were incorporated into the study.
    • The BaltSeaPlan project produced a report “Towards integration of Fisheries into Maritime Spatial Planning”, which suggests, amongst other things, that reservation areas may be established where special weight is given to fishing interests and only compatible uses are permitted.
  • UNDERWATER CULTURAL HERITAGE: Are there classification systems of UCH available which might be relevant for MSP?

    The Study on the Conditions of Spatial Development of Polish Sea Areas focused on the permission system for the exploration and sustainable use of UCH, and it related this to Polish tourism. It establishes a permission system for the exploration and sustainable use of UCH. Furthermore, it provides rules and procedures to regulate tourism activities and measurement of its impact on development of coastal communities; these might be useful for an MSP process taking UHC into account.

  • UNDERWATER CULTURAL HERITAGE: Are practices available which foster collaboration and cooperation between key stakeholders?

    A PartiSEApate sectoral workshop on “UCH and MSP” took place to gather information on the composition and level of pan-Baltic organisation within the UCH sector, general development trends, views of MSP generally, and willingness of the UCH sector to contribute to a pan-Baltic MSP dialogue.

  • NATURE CONSERVATION: How is nature conservation addressed through MSP?

    Ecosystem-based approach and sustainable development are key principles of MSP, and require appropriate consideration of ecological implications throughout the MSP process, to ensure sustainable expansion of marine sectors. The MSFD is intended to provide a mechanism of ensuring ecological protection at an ecosystem scale, and is seen as a complementary pillar to MSP, to reconcile growth in marine activities with minimal negative impact on the marine environment.

    Although the environment is a key consideration throughout planning, consideration is also required to those ecological features, which are afforded specific protection under conservation legislation, including primarily the Habitats and Birds Directive (Council Directive 92/43/EEC). The Habitats Directive requires the protection of key species and habitats through a 2 pillar approach of designation of marine protected areas (MPAs) and specific measures addressing the species listed on Annex IV(a) of the Directive (see question “How are mobile species with conservation status considered in MSP?”)).

    As a defined spatial element of conservation, much emphasis is placed on the primary pillar, i.e. designation and inclusion of MPAs in planning processes in order to achieve conservation objectives. In most cases, MPAs have already been designated and are therefore incorporated into the MSP process when allocating areas for other activities (for example in Germany). Their status would not be expected to change through MSP, and the objectives of the MPA will be a consideration in planning activities which may interact with the site or its’ conservation features. Where MPAs are required, MSP can support their designation and understanding of objectives in relation to other interests.  In any case it is important to note the great variety of types of different MPAs as recognised by IUCN’s different categories of protection, and that all may need to be considered within developing MSP.

  • NATURE CONSERVATION: How is the functionality of MPA networks assessed and what is its relevance for MSP?

    The objective of networks of MPAs are that they are ‘ecologically coherent’ which is fundamental to understanding the contribution of MPAs to an ecosystem-based approach, but ‘ecological coherence’ is a challenging concept to define and evaluate. Most definitions envisage MPA networks that maintain ecosystem processes, functions and structures and where individual MPAs function synergistically with others in the network. Criteria used to judge ecological coherence include representativity, replication, adequacy, viability and connectivity.

    Tools that can be used to assess ecological coherence are being developed and an example includes the BALANCE project, which defined criteria and tools to be used in the Baltic Sea. Other relevant studies explore the assessment of MPA network functionality from the basis of larval dispersal modelling.

    Understanding ecological functioning is a critical basis for ecosystem-based MSP hence knowledge and analysis of such systems would be beneficial to developing a shared understanding of the system and the effects of proposed activities. Relating ecosystem functioning from a conservation perspective to the ecosystem services framework would improve communication of the potential for maritime activities to negatively affect ecosystem processes, functions and structures in MSP. It would also build understanding of the reliance of such activities on healthy ecological networks (in terms of benefits and services) such as fisheries and sustainable tourism.

  • NATURE CONSERVATION: How can mobile species with conservation status be considered in MSP?

    In the second pillar of the Habitats Directive, animal species listed on Annex IV(a) present a further aspect for consideration, particularly as this includes the majority of mobile species (all marine mammals and many seabird species). Where possible, the areas of high sensitivity for such species should be represented spatially for inclusion within MSP mapping processes, for example, migratory bird routes or marine mammal foraging areas. However, data is often limited in being able to specifically define these hence MSP processes would need to consider the potential for these to occur and enable subsequent planning to account for them.

    Given the migratory nature and extensive range of these species, trans-boundary co-operation is necessary to manage issues at an appropriate scale in order to understand effects at a population level (a key determinant in evaluating the ‘significance’ of particular effects under the Habitats Directive). In this context, initiatives such as the Trilateral Wadden Sea Plan, reviewed through the ARTWEI project, addressing trans-boundary policy and management of the Wadden Sea are a fundamental starting point, since they enable development of a shared vision for a healthy environment and set the basis for co-operation in addressing shared ecological challenges.

  • NATURE CONSERVATION: How are activities within MPAs managed? Are activities excluded?

    MPAs generally do not mean exclusion of all marine activities. Depending on the features for which the sites are designated, the conservation status and conservation objectives for the site (i.e. are they in good condition? Is the aim to maintain condition or improve?), and the likely interactions between activities, the management measures for the MPAs will state what restrictions on particular activities are appropriate. This may include seasonal restrictions only (e.g. seal haul-out sites), or restrictions on certain activities (e.g. bottom-trawling in areas of sensitive seafloor habitats). The risk of adverse effect of proposed activities on a particular feature or site is therefore of critical interest, and will be location specific.

    Reference documents exist which support understanding around environmental implications of proposed activities in an MSP context, including through the PartiSEApate project, which hosted a number of cross-sectoral workshops between sea users, including addressing environmental issues.

    Given the likelihood of compatibility between marine activities and MPAs, a zoning approach to inclusion of MPAs in MSPs is therefore not always relevant (or at least not the only relevant one), as activities may overlap, in space and time, and innovative models of management may be appropriate, including seasonal controls on activities or promoting co-location of activities which promote and enhance environmental features, (e.g. sustainable tourism, artificial reefs at wind farm sites, etc.). Guidelines and regulation for the spatial and temporal management of marine activities must be therefore integral part of the MSP approach, in particular when dealing with MPAs,

  • RESEARCH: Is marine scientific research a specific consideration for MSP?

    Yes, scientific criteria, such as the presence of threatened and/or declining species, underpin the designation of many MPAs. Some MPAs have non-use or strictly protected zones (or so called ‘core areas’) where other human activities are not allowed.

    Another spatial element associated with scientific research is the presence of long-term monitoring stations or observatories (e.g. Porcupine Abyssal Plain Observatory in the Atlantic). Such sites collect and record time series information to detect and interpret environmental change. Their value is in-situ uninterrupted data recording. These locations and their equipment should be protected from other uses in the planning process.

  • OIL AND GAS: How could MSP improve the leasing/permitting processes for oil and gas development? 

    In the UK, the Department of Energy and Climate Change conducted its most recent ina series of a Strategic Environmental Assessment’s in UK waters with a focus on Offshore Energy (OESEA3). The draft plan produced as a result of this report includes the licensing/leasing of offshore oil and gas activities, the storage of gas and CO2, offshore wind farms and marine renewables.

    THE OESEA3 intended to consider the environmental implications of DECC’s draft plan/programme to enable further licensing/leasing for offshore energy (oil and gas, hydrocarbon gas storage, carbon dioxide storage and marine renewables including wind, wave, tidal stream and tidal range). This includes consideration of the implications of alternatives to the plan/programme and consideration of potential interactions with other users of the sea

    • Inform the UK Government's decisions on the draft plan/programme
    • Provide routes for public and stakeholder participation in the process

    In Europe, MSP is subject to Directive 2014/89/EU which came into force in July 2014. In the UK the first set of marine plans in English waters, the East Inshore and Offshore Marine Plans, were adopted in 2014, with plans presently being prepared for the South Inshore and Offshore Regions. Scotland’s National Marine Plan was adopted in 2015, and a number of smaller Scottish marine regions will be subject to regional planning in the coming years. Whilst most marine licencing activities in the UK are the responsibility of the devolved governments, decisions relating to oil and gas are the responsibility of the DECC.  

  • OIL AND GAS: Can examples of how strategic planning has been used in the oil and gas industry be transferred to other emerging sectors such as offshore wind? 

    The oil and gas industry operating in Europe, particularly in the North Sea can be thought of as a relatively mature industry having been in operation since the 1960’s, offshore wind farms however are relatively new by comparison.

    As a mature industry, extensive legislation is already in place for every aspect of oil and gas engineering, from installation right through to the decommissioning process. Many of the European standards relating of Oil and Gas are particularly relevant to offshore wind.  In instances where specific legislation has not been developed for offshore wind as yet, it was recommended that  reference is instead made to the equivalent offshore oil and gas standard. Similarities can between the development of the development of legislation for oil and gas pipelines and cabling for offshore wind farms. Like offshore pipelines the initial legislation for offshore wind did not cover cabling., without any specific guidance from existing international legislation coastal states are allowed to decide which aspects of existing regulation to apply and the extend of said regulation.

    Recent research conducted by Muller et al (2014) concluded that whilst initial comparisons could be drawn on the two industries vastly differing drivers, for example the EU 20-20 targets mean that the going forward similarities may not be as applicable.

    In 2008 a communication from the Commission noted that whilst competition exists between both industries at present, strategic planning could result in a smooth managed and gradual transition between both industries moving forward.  

  • OIL AND GAS: Is there scope for cross-sector transfer between the oil and gas and offshore wind industries? 

    In 2011 Scottish Enterprise published “A Guide of Offshore Wind and Oil and Gas Capability” which provided detailed information to the oil and gas supply chain on those areas of the offshore wind project life cycle where there is the greatest opportunity for oil and gas involvement and growth opportunity. In addition the guide highlights areas of overlap between offshore wind product life cycle and oil and gas, and therefore the greatest opportunity for growth and or potential future transition within the employment base. The offshore wind sector is set to grow rapidly, particularly in the UK, and to ensure maximum economic benefits it is important that the existing business and industry supply chain capitalise on these emerging opportunities.

    The report identified and number of high level and medium level opportunities. According to the Scottish Enterprise website the 9 key areas of opportunities for oil and gas companies within the offshore wind sector are as follows:  

    • Project Management - Oil and gas companies have the skills to manage complex projects offshore.
    • Array cables - Manufacturing array cables for offshore wind requires similar skills and equipment to oil and gas umbilical manufacture.
    • Substation structures - These are typically one-off designs - similar in scale to oil and gas platforms.
    • Turbine foundations - The fabrication skills used in oil and gas can be harnessed to produce serially manufactured structures.
    • Secondary steelwork - An accessible market for companies with the capacity to for foundation manufacture, entering this market might not require new coastal facilities.
    • Cable installation - Most contractors in this market have oil and gas experience and have learned to adapt to the significant new challenges that the complexity of offshore wind contracts presents.
    • Installation equipment - A significant number of companies have diversified from oil and gas into areas like cable handling equipment and trenching and burial tools.
    • Installation support services - Many oil and gas companies have experience of working offshore - that can bring real benefits to the offshore wind industry in subsea services like diving and ROV service and onshore activities like marine consultancy.
    • Maintenance and inspection services - Oil and gas experience of offshore logistics can shape evolving strategies in offshore wind.
  • OCEAN ENERGY (Wave and Tidal Energy): What is the status of the technology of the sector? What are the spatial implications of these?

    Ocean energy technologies (referring to wave and tidal energy) are in development as a potential commercially viable source of power from renewable energy. Progress differs across technologies and there is huge potential in the sector. As technology advances from prototypes to large-scale commercial arrays, there are implications for the planning of maritime space.

    Tidal energy technology is at a more advanced stage due to convergence of technology and involvement of large industrial players and utility companies, although still not yet commercial scale. Traditionally, tidal rangetechnologies have been the focus of development; these harness the movement of water through a bay or estuary and include more traditional barrages. Operational tidal range technologies can be found in France (the Rance Tidal Power Station), whilst a new tidal lagoon technology includes the proposed 320 MW Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon in Wales, UK. 

    More recently, extensive R&D is focussed on the development of tidal current technologies, which harness the power of tidal water movement through underwater turbines. Various devices and components are being tested with some progress from prototype to commercial scale devices (including the Meygen project in Scotland, and the Paimpol-Brehat project in France). 

    Wave energy is at a much earlier stage, with most development focussed on prototype devices and components. Technologies include floats, buoys, or pitching devicesthat generate electricity using the rise and fall of ocean swells to drive hydraulic pumps. A second type uses oscillating water column (OWC) devicesto generate electricity at the shore using the rise and fall of water within a cylindrical shaft. Third, a tapered channel, or overtopping devicecan be located either on or offshore. There is also the potential for wave energy converters to power offshore activities, such as aquaculture.

    Numerous R&D projects are addressing the progress of wave energy devices to commercial scale arrays or wave farms. These include the Powerkite Horizon 2020 research project, focussing on ‘power take-off’ (transfer of energy from the device) and seabed tethering of devices among other concepts. The CEFOW (Clean Energy from Ocean Waves) proposes to connect 3 Wello ‘Penguin’ wave energy convertors at the EMEC test centre in Orkney, Scotland. The Horizon 2020 MaRINET2 project, announced in April 2018, will fund access to a network of research facilities across Europe, in order to advance 32 new technologies through a competitive process, including technologies such as the Laminaria wave energy device. 

    Although the progress in the uptake of tidal and wave energy has been slower than expected over the last 10 or 15 years[1], further commercialisation in tidal and to some extent wave energy technologies can be expected in the years to come, based on continued funding into these areas. Such ‘upscaling’ in areas of resource availability will have implications to be considered through maritime spatial planning including increased interaction with other sectors and ecological impacts. 

    [1] https://publications.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/03c9b...

  • OCEAN ENERGY (Wave and Tidal Energy): What is the current understanding of the primary ecological concerns of ocean energy devices?

    Installation of devices at sea result in interaction with the environment, some of which may be of ecological concern. Impacts will vary according to the technology type, size of device or array, location and other operational and site characteristics. As technologies are novel, there is limited availability of data which can provide evidence on the extent of ecological effects. There is therefore significant uncertainty in predicting what these would be for a particular proposed technology or project. This poses challenges for the industry when progressing through planning and consenting processes, as legislative requirements in relation to conservation require a high level of scientific certainty that species and habitats of importance will not be negatively affected. Project delays and cost implications of lengthy Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), Appropriate Assessment (AA) and other aspects of licensing and consenting to reach conclusions on predicted impacts and their ‘acceptability’ are a key challenge for ocean energy developers. 

    Substantial investment has therefore been made into understanding the ecological effects of ocean energy proposals, to develop the evidence base for undertaking EIAs and making applications. Projects such as Tethys facilitate exchange of information and data on the environment, collating reports such as “The State of Knowledge for Environmental Effects: Driving Consenting / Permitting for the Marine Renewable Energy Industry” produced in January 2018. 

    Proposed ocean energy projects would need to be considered in the development of MSP, and the most up to date information will be set out by each project proponent, according to the technology type and operational characteristics proposed.

MSP for Blue Growth

  • What future sectoral uses are considered important for MSP?

    The potential sectoral uses are determined by various factors which are both related to external drivers (such as climate change adaptation, ageing population, technology changes) as well as the internal response capacity and the competitive position of Europe’s industry overall.

    Typically important uses of maritime space are maritime transportation and ports, fisheries and indirectly tourism. Offshore oil and gas plays a role within the North Sea as well as the Adriatic; whereas the rapid expansion of offshore wind is one of the most important drivers for MSP within Northern Europe with important spatial consequences – thus requiring careful long-term planning. Cables and pipelines are therefore also growing in importance; while other uses such as aquaculture and seabed mining also have relevant spatial implications.

    The original Blue Growth Study contains important information – notably on synergies and tensions, as fully described under chapter 5 of the study report. Important maritime economic activities, which already have a critical mass (e.g. short-sea shipping, cruising, offshore drilling, offshore wind and coastal tourism), can have substantial knock-on effects for future growth and development of other activities. For example, several economic activities make use of similar inputs (e.g. shipbuilding as input to cruise shipping, short-sea shipping, coastal protection, offshore wind, offshore oil and gas, and marine mineral mining) or share the same infrastructure, notably ports. 

    As part of the MSP for Blue Growth Study, nine Sector Fiches suggest how to best consider the expected development in terms of spatial requirements of each maritime sector during the MSP processes. The nine sectors covered are the key maritime activities listed above. The fiches present key facts of each maritime use, including its gross value added, presence across sea basins, temporal aspects, life cycle of installations, land-sea interactions and relevant spatial needs. On top of this, each fiche provides and overview on the sector’s future trends as affected by policy, industry and financial developments. Based on the identified trends, the projections are presented on the requirements of maritime space for every maritime activity. The interactions between sectors are also analysed and potential for spatial conflict or synergies are identified.

    All together, the report points to an extraordinary diversity of spatial implications of each sector given their spatial characteristics, planning time horizons and implications of technological change. Obviously, rapidly developing and emerging sectors might have more important implications for MSP, compared to established activities that have already consolidated their spatial use. Finally, the study offers a set of concrete recommendations on how both planners as well as sectors may inform each other to create MSP solutions, unlocking Blue Growth potentials in a sustainable manner.

  • What are some examples of sea-basin wide assessments of future uses?

    Such assessments are increasingly taking place as part of sea-basin specific maritime spatial planning. To support of these endeavours, the MSP Visions Handbook provides guidance to developing a vision with the aim of having an agreed-upon perspective on the maritime area, its specificities and what the area might look like in the long run if the maritime spatial plan is implemented. Numerous examples of past and ongoing transnational projects have developed sea-basin wide visions, for example BaltSeaPlan and the BlueMed Initiative. Other examples of efforts at sea-basin assessments of futures uses are presented below.

    The ‘Study on Blue Maritime Policy and the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region’ aims to identify the potential for Blue Growth in the Baltic Member States at a sea-basin level and to provide recommendations for its development in the context of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR) and the next programming period.

    The main outcome of the MEDTRENDS project illustrates and maps the main scenarios of maritime economic activities for the EU Mediterranean countries in the next 20 years.  The analysis was implemented at the Mediterranean regional or sub-regional (Adriatic Sea) scales and more specifically at the level of the eight EU Mediterranean countries.

  • How can trade-offs be made between various future space uses?

    Decisions about the use of maritime space are – as on land – are often political. The term trade-off involves losing one quality or aspect of something in return for gaining another quality or aspect. It is now more generally used for situations where a choice needs to be made between two or more things that cannot be had at the same time. Trade-off covers a wider array of phenomena, such as conflicting land and sea-uses, a negative correlation between spatial occurrences, incompatibilities and excludability.

    In parallel to this, tensions can exist between different maritime economic activities directly, but also indirectly, for example if one activity puts pressure on the marine environment – thus compromising the potential of another activity strongly relying on marine environment quality. Most tensions are spatial in their nature. Hence a strong link exists with MSP to address these tensions. MSP processes offer a framework for managing potential conflicts and fostering synergies between, but also within, sectors. Tensions can be minimised through the involvement of stakeholders from the early stages of planning.

    In order to plan ahead and anticipate potential conflicts between different uses, MSP authorities can develop a vision for MSP in their sea basin. A maritime vision or preferred scenario provides and an agreed-upon perspective and can establish a common understanding of the future of a maritime area. The MSP Visions Handbook provides guidance to developing such a vision.

    Another element to reduce conflict and minimise potential trade-offs, is trans-national and cross-border planning.

    Finally, if trade-offs need to be made, there are various ways of comparing the weight and importance of such future space uses, such as multi-criteria analysis or cost-benefit analysis. For example, the BaltSeaPlan has produced a practice on the Cost-Benefit Analysis for Balancing sea use interests within the Latvian MSP process. Section 4 of this FAQ section provides further information on how the costs and benefits of maritime uses can be analysed through cross-sector integration, while also providing a list of useful tools and concrete examples of projects.

    Early cross-sectoral stakeholder engagement and discussions allow for identification of possible trade-offs, synergies and opportunities of multi-use of space and resourcess for compatible uses. The MUSES project is an initiative funded by Horizon 2020 that is exploring where, and under which conditions, the sustainable Multi-Use of ocean space and resources can be developed to ensure that Blue Growth is taking place in a sustainable and space efficient manner. To bring the Multi-Use of Oceans from concept to life, joint actions need to be taken on different governance levels, by actors from the maritime business community, planning, policy and regulatory agencies, financing bodies - including EU programmes - and research institutions. 

Indicators, monitoring and evaluation

  • How can objectives for MSP be formulated and linked to indicators?

    For authorities to be able to monitor MSP and develop appropriate indicators,   objectives need to be formulated. MSP objectives should adhere to the SMART criteria:

    • Specific: Objectives should be concrete and not too broad.
    • Measurable: Objectives should ideally be formulated in a way that allows quantification.
    • Achievable:  Objectives should be reachable within the given timeframe and the relevant context.
    • Relevant: Objectives should correspond to the needs identified. Also, the objectives should be influenced by MSP.
    • Time-bound: Objectives should be situated in a specific timeframe.

    At the same time, as explained in the Handbook on MSP Indicators, these objectives can be situated at different levels:

    Only process and operational objectives are within the control of the MSP authorities, while the other levels are impacted by MSP and external factors. High-level objectives should still be taken into consideration in the planning processes, as they often result from political plans in which MSP is situated.   

    Once objectives have been formulated, they can be linked to indicators that measure their achievement at all different levels:

    1. Overarching Blue Growth indicators. In line with the Blue Growth Communication, jobs, added value, and GHG reduction can be used as overarching indicators. Depending on the MSP objectives, authorities can customise the indicators to a specific sector of the blue economy. These indicators are mostly to be used as context indicators rather than for measuring the success of MSP.
    2. Impact indicators (e.g. MW of wind power generated at sea) measure the achievement of global objectives and observe the evolution of Blue economy sectors. Outputs and outcomes have influence over these indicators, but they extend beyond the control of MSP authorities.
    3. Outcome indicators (e.g. Capacity of oil / gas installations at sea) are linked to the different sectors of the blue economy and reflect socio-economic and ecological aspects. Some are controllable by the MSP authorities, while most of them are not. They can also be developed to measure efficiency of different maritime uses, by linking a certain output to the space assigned to the activity.
    4. Output indicators (e.g. Maritime space assigned for tidal energy installations) are a direct product of MSP processes and measure progress towards operational objectives. They should be linked to operational ecological objectives, consider land-sea interactions (as required under the MSP Directive), but can also monitor blue economy sectors.
    5. MSP process indicators can be quantitative or qualitative. Qualitative indicators (e.g. Availability of sufficient staff assigned to MSP processes) may be binary or use appropriate scales. Quantitative indicators (e.g. Number of consultations held with neighbouring countries) consider aspects of the MSP processes that are directly measurable and quantifiable (stock-taking, coordination, securing resources, stakeholder perspective). A shortcoming of quantitative indicators is that they might not account for the quality of the processes. MSP authorities may ideally develop a combination of both types of indicators. 
    6. Additional Ecological indicators monitor include specific ecological objectives included in MSP, however these are usually broad horizontal objectives and are related to objectives for certain Blue economy sectors. The MSFD (Marine Strategy Framework Directive) sets out the marine environmental objectives and the descriptors used by MSFD can be used as ecological indicators for MSP processes. 

    When formulating MSP objectives, a number of tipscan guide planners in the process and make sure the objectives are fit for purpose:

    • Consider the Blue Growth objectives (jobs, growth, safeguarding biodiversity and protecting the marine environment), national strategies/policies/action plans, as well as objectives set out in regional and local strategies/policies/action plans.
    • Define objectives for the different sectors of the blue economy.
    • Define environmental/biodiversity objectives.
    • Define objectives for the MSP process.
    • Take into account the various levels and structure them logically. 
    • Ensure the objectives respond to all SMART criteria.
    • Discuss and agree on the right type of objectives with the right stakeholders.


  • How can MSP authorities define indicators?

    After MSP authorities have defined the MSP objectives, planners can design or select appropriate indicators for each level.

    The Handbook on MSP Indicators suggests to first consider the availability of information. At the higher levels of indicators (e.g. impact), information sources are mainly official statistics. Regarding indicators on aspects under control of the MSP authorities, data can be collected from stakeholders, existing studies and from the authorities themselves. 


    • Verify if the indicators are cost-effective with regard to the cost for obtaining the data.
    • Consider all available sources of information and verify if the data is validated.
    • Ensure the data is up-to-date, available at the required frequency,  at the correct geographical level.

    Next, planners should define baseline values for each indicator. The value set as the baseline will be used to compare change registered by the indicator. The baseline allows making an initial assessment of the situation and monitoring improvements or deteriorations linked to MSP. 


    • Identify baselines for every indicator. If not possible, explain why there is no baseline.
    • Set the baseline year as close as possible to the year of adoption of the MSP.
    • Baselines can be taken from a preceding generation of maritime spatial plans.

    The third step is to identify external factors and to set target values that are aligned with the objectives. They may include interim and final targets. External factors outside the authorities influence are more significant at the higher levels and reduce their control over reaching the target values at these levels. In addition, authorities should clearly flag any assumptions made to reach the target values. Therefore, the validity of these assumptions also needs to be verified in time. 


    • Consider all main external factors that could affect the reaching of the target values.
    • Clearly state the assumptions that need to hold true in order to reach the expected targets.
    • Make sure the indicators are achievable within a given timeframe and context.
    • Make sure the indicators are time-bound,  so that targets are set for an intermediate/final year of achievement. 
    • Ensure that baseline values and target values in the same measurement unit and result from the same calculation methodologies/sources.



Land-Sea interactions in MSP

  • Is MSP only about planning of sea areas or does it refer to a broader geographic context?

    According to the DIRECTIVE 2014/89/EU establishing a framework for maritime spatial planning, whilst it is noted that activities carried out on land such as agriculture and urban growth can have a profound impact on the marine environment for example via run off of chemicals / waste etc. and as such are relevant in the context of Maritime Spatial Planning, MSP directive manages only maritime activities and activities in coastal waters.

    It is noted that achieving consistency between maritime and terrestrial will be challenging and that in order to “promote the sustainable use of maritime space, maritime spatial planning should take into account land-sea interactions”.

  • What is the difference between integrated coastal management (ICM) and MSP processes?

    Whilst Maritime Spatial Planning and Integrated Coastal Management (ICM, sometimes referred to as Integrated Coastal Zone Management or ICZM) both involve a strategic approach to planning within the marine environment in terms of uses and activities, the main difference between the two are the scales to which they can be applied. Typically ICM is applied to marine zones less than two kilometres from the coastline, conversely MSP can be applied to much wider areas such as coastal watersheds or Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ).

    ICM can be defined as dynamic, multi-disciplinary and iterative process to promote the sustainable management of coastal zones (EC COM(2000) 547). The 2002 Recommendation sets out broad principles for ICM processes, including the need for informed participation and co-operation of all stakeholders. The same Recommendation (and the following EC COM(2013) 133) invites Member States to develop ICM strategies based on the results of a previous stocktaking of major actors, laws and institutions influencing coastal management. Indeed, there is no EU requirement for all Member States to conduct ICM, and practice varies according to local conditions. However, for the Mediterranean basin the ICZM Protocol to the Barcelona Convention defines a common binding framework for ICM. MSP, by contrast, is a formal requirement for all EU Member States and mounts into maritime spatial plans. It is worth mentioning that the geographic scope of the ICZM Protocol in the Mediterranean extends seaward to the external limit of the territorial sea of the Parties, overlapping with the MSP area of interest.

  • How can be MSP used to integrate various already existing planning approaches like ICM or EBM (Ecosystem-based management)?

    The IMP identifies maritime spatial planning as a cross-cutting policy tool enabling public authorities and stakeholders to apply a coordinated, integrated and trans-boundary approach. The application of an ecosystem-based approach will contribute to promoting the sustainable development and growth of the maritime and coastal economies and the sustainable use of marine and coastal resources. With this in mind the maritime spatial planning should not be seen as a standalone tool, rather one that incorporates ecosystem based management and integrated coastal zone management where applicable. Art. 7 of the MSP Directive states that “to take into account land-sea interactions in accordance with Article 4(2), should this not form part of the maritime spatial planning process as such, Member States may use other formal or informal processes, such as integral coastal management. The outcome shall be reflected by Member States in their maritime spatial plans.”

  • What examples of plans or guidelines exist which can provide a framework for integrating terrestrial and marine planning?

    The Interreg funded C-Scope project was undertaken by the Dorset Coastal Form (DCS) and the Coordination Centre on Integrated Coastal Zone Management in Belgium. One of the key aims of the project was to develop a framework for an integrated approach to land and sea planning and management which also provided practical case studies, comprehensive information resources and test cases for the implementation of MSP in both partner areas. 

    In the Kattegat and Skagerrak the Hav möter Land (Land meets Sea) project brought together 26 municipalities, regions, universities and governmental organisations from Norway, Sweden and Denmark one major aim being  working to achieve coordinated management of the land and sea.

    In addition a number of examples of guidelines have been produced to encourage local authorities and other regulatory bodies to consider how land use planning and marine planning are interlinked. For example in the UK, the Marine Management Organisation produced a Guide for Local Councils which compared land use and marine planning in order to improve understanding of the links between the two. 

    These and a number of other practice examples can be found on the practices section of this website. In addition to these practices a briefing paper was produced prior to the LSI Conference in Malta which outlines the complex dynamics which exist between land-sea interactions along with the various options for governance which have been used to address this.:

    The diagram below summarises this framework. 

Ecosystem-based approach

  • Are there application examples and guidance available that can help MSP authorities operationalize EBA?

    General support is provided by guidance or pilot plans. At the sea-basin level, the HELCOM Guidelines for the implementation of the EBA in MSP refer to the Baltic Sea context and elaborate on the key elements to consider when applying the approach, such as deploying best available knowledge and practice, following the precautionary principle and identifying ecosystem services. The practice includes also the analysis of the relevant legal and policy context for the ecosystem-based approach, such as the Helsinki Convention, HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan and the Joint HELCOM-VASAB MSP Principles. Additionally, in the Mediterranean Sea, a Roadmap for implementing the EBA as a guiding principle for the Mediterannean Action Plan Programme of Work was developed, under the auspices of UNEP/MAP Barcelona Convention.

    Individual countries have also developed guidance or frameworks for EBA in the context of their national MSP processes. In a practical guidance of the Marine Management Organisation, the CBD Principles for EBA have been modified for application in marine planning in England. Implementation of EBA in MSP in Latvia follows a three step approach: a) analysing best knowledge and practice and identification of ecosystem services, b) finding alternative developments to assess impacts on marine ecosystems and c) applying precaution and mitigation when using an impact matrix. 

    The Guidelines developed for the project ECODUMP  are explicitly dealing with the influence of MSP and ecosystem based principles on the search and assessment of new disposal sites at the near-shore of Lithuania. The pilot plan for the Western Gulf of Gdansk developed in the project BaltSeaPlan outlines the preparation of an SEA report for maritime spatial plans in line with the EBA and with the special issue that the planned area contains Natura 2000 sites. The ADRIPLAN methodology provides techniques and methods based on the EBA for practically implementing MSP in the Adriatic-Ionian macro-region. The project BALANCE outlines the concept of blue corridors and how to work with it during practical marine spatial planning processes.

    Different studies and tools are providing support when implementing ecosystem-based management. ECOMAGIS developed a complex GIS for an ecosystem-based management through integrated monitoring and assessment of the status of flora and fauna in the Romanian part of the Black Sea. Two practices have developed tools for all sea basins like the MareFrame Decision Support Framework and the ODEMM approach for EBA.

  • Are there practices available to find out more about the application of cumulative impact methodologies?

    In all MSP contexts one of the main challenges, related with the EBA, is the evaluation of cumulative effects that may result from the combination of different projects and activities and the potential lack of a continuous series of data and related assessment tool. This aspect is related also with the need for evaluation and monitoring of conflicts among uses, in order to detect how these conflicts evolve in the course of implementation of a MSP plan. Some tools for conflicts evaluation are available, e.g. COEXIST Analysis of conflicts score, ADRIPLAN Conflicts Score Tool. The ADRIPLAN Data Portal includes spatial data and metadata to assess cumulative impacts for different categories like coastal defence, sand extraction or energy. The ADRIPLAN Cumulative Impact Tool is the main methodological tool used in the project to evaluate the potential impact of maritime activities on the environment. The Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda (SRIA) developed by the Bluemed Initiative of the Mediterranean Sea include a (theoretical) strategic and programmatic agenda for actions. These actions are aiming to develop inter alia tools to assess the cumulative impacts of human activities to ensure an ecologically sound exploitation of marine resources and to use decision tools to select sites for offshore installations. Finally, CONCEAL mapped cumulative noise from shipping to inform marine spatial planners and/or conservationists about the limits of good conservation status under the MSFD.

    In national MSP processes, Sweden uses the 'Symphony' method to compare the environmental impact of different plan alternatives and assess cumulative impacts. The tool will be used in the Strategic Environmental Assessment of the Swedish MSP to assess ecological risks.

  • What kind of knowledge is available at the sea basin level regarding seabed habitats, which could be used for applying the EBA in MSP?

    There is one tool available for the specific region of the North-East Atlantic: from the MESHAtlantic project. It compiles the knowledge of our seas, particularly the seabed habitats, and produces harmonised habitat maps for the Atlantic Area. This includes conversion of existing paper-based maps to digital formats. Examples of mapping Natura 2000 sites are used to test mapping methods.

  • How is the implementation of MSP linked to Good Environmental Status (GES) and the related objectives and measures of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD)?

    EU Member States (MS) must ensure that no significant risks or impacts on marine biodiversity, marine ecosystems or human health are posed by legitimate uses of the sea. This is enshrined in the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD; 2008/56/EC), a piece of EU law, which extends monitoring and assessment of EU seas out to 200 nm.

    As such, the main aim of the MSFD is ‘to promote sustainable use of the seas and conserve marine ecosystems through the aim of achieving a Good Environmental Status[1](GES), based upon 11 Qualitative Descriptors[2] by 2020’.

    In the MSFD cycle (Figure 1) to achieve GES by 2020, a first step is that MS produce initial assessments of the environmental status for their national parts of the seas. Next, monitoring programmes and programmes of measures (PoMs) are developed, including spatial protection measures.

    Image source: Borja, A., Elliott, M., Andersen, J. H., Berg, T., Carstensen, J., Halpern, B.S., Heiskanen, A-S., Korpinen, S., Stewart Lowndes, J.S., Martin, G., Rodriguez-Ezpeleta, N. (2016). Overview of Integrative Assessment of Marine Systems: The Ecosystem Approach in Practice. Frontiers in Marine Science, 3:20. https://www.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fmars.2016.00020. Doi. 10.3389/fmars.2016.00020.

    On the other hand, the Maritime Spatial Planning Directive (MSP Directive, 2014/89/EU) aims for ‘the sustainable growth of maritime and coastal economies and the sustainable use of marine and coastal resources’.

    Despite the fact that each of the Directives have their specific objectives, many authors[3]-[4] have shown the importance of linking these Directive´s efforts (along with others such as the Water Framework Directive (WFD, 2000/60/EC) or Habitats Directive (HD, 92/43/EEC)) in order to attain their objectives in a more coherent way (Figure 2).

    Image source: Boon, A., Uyarra, M.C., Heiskanen, A-S., van der Meulen, M.D., Galparsoro, I., Viitasalo, M., Stolte, W., Garmendia, J.M., Murillas, A., Borja, A. (2015). Mapping and assessment of marine ecosystem services and link to Good Environmental Status (phase 1) - Background document to the Roadmap for an integrated approach to a marine MAES. doi. 10.13140/RG.2.2.28660.35204

    One possible way of linking both objectives of the MSFD and MSPD could be through the ecosystem-based approach, defined under Main Issues above and discussed in several sources[5].

    The MSP Directive sets out 10 key principles which are closely linked to the principles of the ecosystem-based-approach as defined under the Conference of Biological Diversity[6]. These two groups of principles can be related as described in Figure 3[7].

    Practical ways on how to integrate ecosystem-based approach principles in the MSP process have been proposed, for example, by the experience in the Baltic Sea[8].

    As contemplated in the MSP Directive, this legislative instrument should apply the ecosystem-based approach, as referred to in Article 1(3) of the MSFD, with the aim to ensure that the collective pressure of all activities is kept within levels that are compatible with the achievement of GES[9]. The preamble clearly emphasizes the fact that the monitoring of indicators of GES in the MSFD is a key factor when it comes to assessing the effectiveness of the programs and achieving the anticipated objectives on a regional and local scale[10].

    However, the application of the ecosystem-based approach still entails some difficulties as to merge environmental quality management (e.g. MSFD) with MSP and Blue Growth initiatives. The main challenge remains on how to maintain and protect ecological structure and functioning (MSFD) while at the same time allowing the system to produce sustainable ecosystem services from which we derive societal benefits (MSP Directive). Furthermore, uncertainty still exists on cumulative and in-combination effects, footprints of activities and footprints of both Directives (spatial and temporal).

    The following table from Gilbert et al, 2015, provides an overview of the main drivers of change coming from maritime activities expected to affect MSFD descriptors: The table distinguishes between: 

    1. Drivers potentially subject to spatial planning and the descriptors they are likely to influence (in bold) and
    2. Drivers beyond the remit of MSP but with pressures that might need explicit consideration when developing plans.

    Possibilities for linking MSFD and MSP Directive's aims exist through:

    • making available data collected under MSP as information basis for pressure indicators under MSFD;
    • making available data collected under MFSD as information basis for maritime spatial plan assessment (i.e. how well they are performing, if measures to reduce pressures should be put in place, etc.);
    • taking into account land-sea interactions;
    • an adequate design of monitoring programs for measuring MSFD indicators, assessing predominant pressures and impacts and environmental status of marine waters[11];
    • an adequate evaluation of pressures and impacts produced by activities, including cumulative impact assessments;
    • setting adequate targets for indicators;
    • considering ecosystem boundaries  instead of administrative ones;
    • taking into account the assimilative capacity (carrying capacity of the system before breaching GES); and
    • regularly undertaking assessments and considering marine ecosystems in a holistic way (including humans as part of the system)[12],[13],[14].

    References and further reading:

    [1] Concept of GES accommodates the structure, function and processes of the marine ecosystems together with natural physiographic, geographic and climatic factors, as well as physical and chemical conditions including those resulting from human activities in the area concerned.

    [2] Qualitative Descriptors (QD) are: Biodiversity; Alien species; Fishing; Food-webs; Eutrophication; Sea-floor integrity; Hydrography; Pollution in the environment; Pollution in seafood; Litter; and Noise/energy.

    [3] Boyes, S. J., and Elliott, M. (2014). Marine legislation – The ultimate ‘horrendogram’: International law, European directives & national implementation. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 86, 39–47. doi: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2014.06.055.

    [4] Maccarrone, V. Filiciotto, F., de Vincenzi, G., Mazzola, S., Buscaino, G. (2015). An Italian proposal on the monitoring of underwater noise: Relationship between the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) and marine spatial planning directive (MSP). Ocean & Coastal Management 118, 215-224. doi: 10.1016/j.ocecoaman.2015.07.006.

    [5] Borja, Á., M. Elliott, J. Carstensen, A.-S. Heiskanen, W. van de Bund, 2010. Marine management - Towards an integrated implementation of the European Marine Strategy Framework and the Water Framework Directives. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 60: 2175-2186.

    [6] CBD COP 5 Decision V/6 2003. Ecosystem approach.

    [7] Ramieri E., E. Andreoli, A. fanelli, G. Artico, R. Bertaggia 2014. Methodological handbook on Maritime Spatial Planning in the Adriatic Sea. Final report of SHAPE project WP4 “Shipping towards maritime spatial planning”.

    [8] HELCOM-VASAB 2016. Guideline for the implementation of ecosystem-based approach in Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) in the Baltic Sea area.

    [9] Borja, A., M. Elliott, J. H. Andersen, A. C. Cardoso, J. Carstensen, J. G. Ferreira, A.-S. Heiskanen, J. C. Marqués, J. M. Neto, H. Teixeira, L. Uusitalo, M. C. Uyarra, N. Zampoukas, 2013. Good Environmental Status of marine ecosystems: What is it and how do we know when we have attained it? Marine Pollution Bulletin, 76: 16-27.

    [10] Cinnirella, S., Sardá, R., de Vivero, J.L.S., Brennan, R., Barausse, A., Icely, J., Luisetti, T., March, D., Murciano, C., Newton, A., et al., 2014. Steps toward a shared governance response for achieving Good Environmental Status in the Mediterranean Sea. Ecol. Soc. 19, 47.

    [11] According to the indications provided in the Commission Decision 2017/848/EU of 17 May 2017 laying down criteria and methodological standards on good environmental status of marine waters and specifications and standardised methods for monitoring and assessment, and repealing Decision 2010/477/EU.

    [12] Borja, A., M. Elliott, J. H. Andersen, A. C. Cardoso, J. Carstensen, J. G. Ferreira, A.-S. Heiskanen, J. C. Marqués, J. M. Neto, H. Teixeira, L. Uusitalo, M. C. Uyarra, N. Zampoukas, 2013. Good Environmental Status of marine ecosystems: What is it and how do we know when we have attained it? Marine Pollution Bulletin, 76: 16-27.

    [13] Brennan, J., C. Fitzsimmons, T. Gray, L. Raggatt, 2014. EU marine strategy framework directive (MSFD) and marine spatial planning (MSP): Which is the more dominant and practicable contributor to maritime policy in the UK? Marine Policy, 43: 359-366.

    [14] Gilbert, A. J., K. Alexander, R. Sardá, R. Brazinskaite, C. Fischer, K. Gee, M. Jessopp, P. Kershaw, H. J. Los, D. March Morla, C. O'Mahony, M. Pihlajamäki, S. Rees, R. Varjopuro, 2015. Marine spatial planning and Good Environmental Status: a perspective on spatial and temporal dimensions. Ecology and Society, 20.

Environmental assessments

  • What kind of examples exist which show how existing SEA reports have been prepared for MSPs, taking into account different methodologies for protected or not protected sites? 

    There are few examples of existing SEA reports for maritime spatial plans. For instance, the SEA has been carried out in connection with the establishment of the German Spatial Plan(s) forr the Baltic Sea and the North Sea. The environmental reports provide the context, baseline and scoping, elaborate on alternatives and an assessment and prepare the environmental report, including consultation.

    • Chapter 1 refers to most important objectives of the plans and their relationship to other relevant plans (esp. related to offshore wind plans).
    • Chapter 2 describes and assesses the environmental status.
    • Chapter 3 assesses the possible future developments without the plan.
    • Chapter 4 describes and assesses the anticipated severe impacts of the spatial plan on the marine environment, elaborates an environmental impacts assessment for areas of general importance, and elaborates an alternative assessment.

    SEA was also conducted in relation to the Estonian - Pärnu Bay Plan, which is legally binding. The SEA process was carried out as a trans-boundary process with Latvia. At the very beginning of the process, Latvia was informed of the planning process and the SEA. The SEA results and the plan were presented to Latvia after the planning proposal was drafted. 

    However, the majority of the available practices related to the SEA for ecologically valuable marine areas were conducted in relation to a specific (pilot) plan. For instance, the Pilot SEA for the Western Gulf of Gdansk illustrates how to prepare the SEA report for maritime spatial plans in line with the spirit of the SEA Directive when the planned area contains Natura 2000 sites. The crucial issue was to define the significant negative impacts of 18 different activities regulated by the pilot plan's solutions. The process was divided into: determination, analysis and assessment. The BaltSeaPlan report offers comparison how the SEA has been carried out in terms of ecological concerns in two different MSP areas (the German EEZ of the Baltic Sea, and the Gulf of Gdansk). It highlights current challenges, extracts general lessons to be learned on SEA for MSP; shows differences on how to approach SEA and provides general recommendations, esp. a step-by-step approach, on SEA.

  • What is the difference between an EIA, a SEA and other approaches like “Spatial Fishery planning”? 

    SEA is mandatory for plans and programmes implementation of which are likely to have significant effects on the environment. All maritime spatial plans falls, as a rule under this category. EIA is also a mandatory procedure but it concerns concrete undertakings and investments i.e. public and private projects, which are defined mainly in Annexes I and II of the EIA Directive (85/337/EEC). Thus the SEA environmental report only needs to include information that may reasonably be required, taking into account current knowledge and methods of assessment, the content and level of detail in the MSP, its stage in the decision-making process and the extent to which certain matters are more appropriately assessed within a more detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), which is often required for the licensing of specific projects after a Maritime Spatial Plan has entered into force.

    In Natura 2000 sites, appropriate assessments (AA) have to be carried out when plans/projects affect the integrity of a site; the outcomes are binding.  In all other areas, results of an EIA have to be taken into consideration and a SEA shall be taken into account during the preparation of the plan/programme.  In general, within a MSP process the legally foreseen EIA and SEA have to be integrated into the planning process. The aim of the following developed tools related to environmental concerns is to provide support and guidance when implementing environmental assessments during MSP processes, be it within or outside Natura 2000 sites. Good practices related to their use are numerous. For instance:

    • The Cumulative Impact is the main methodological tool used in ADRIPLAN to evaluate the potential impact of maritime activities on the environment, quantifying the pressures generated by the uses on the environmental components (in the current and future scenarios). Cumulative impacts are a key point for the construction of maritime spatial plans using an Ecosystem Based Approach (EBA). The analysis of cumulative impacts aims at identifying areas in the sea where the environmental and ecological components are more exposed to anthropogenic pressures that negatively affect them.
    • Adaptive Marine Policy (AMP) Toolbox was developed to assist marine policymakers to achieve or maintain GES (Good Environmental Status) of coastal and marine ecosystems in the Mediterranean and Black Sea basins. It is aimed at policymakers who are developing marine environment policies, including decision-makers at local, national, and regional authorities.
    • The Balance project has elaborated how to conduct an Assessment of Ecological Coherence of the Marine Protected Areas Network. This contains set of practical information defines practical criteria and offers a first set of tools that can be used repeatedly to assess ecological coherence of the Baltic Sea MPA networks.
    • With regard to fishery the DISPLACE project has elaborated a model for spatial fishery planning and effort displacement. DISPLACE allows contributing to marine spatial planning for evaluating the effects on stocks and fisheries (impact assessment on stocks and fisheries of marine management) and ultimately incorporating other utilization of the sea such as energy production, transport, recreational use, etc., e.g. offshore windmill farms, large marine constructions, NATURA 2000 areas, transport routes of commercial shipping, pipelines, cables, etc.
  • What is the relation between the ESPOO convention and MSP?

    Environmental threats do not respect national borders. Governments have realized that to avert this danger they must notify and consult each other on all major projects under consideration that might have adverse environmental impact across borders. The Espoo Convention is a key step to bringing together all stakeholders to prevent environmental damage before it occurs. The Convention entered into force in 1997. It was complemented by the Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment (Kiev, 2003). The Protocol requires its Parties to evaluate the environmental consequences of their official draft plans and programmes by conducting Strategic environmental assessment (SEA).  So it offers a practical extension of the SEA Directive to non-EU member states. Moreover, it provides frames for trans-boundary consultations related to the SEA process. The annex iii of this Protocol enumerates criteria for determining of the likely significant environmental, including health, effects of the plans and programmes. Maritime spatial plans are in line with those criteria, thus they are subject to the SEA and to the trans-boundary consultations of their SEA reports. For the essence of the SEA in relation to the Espoo Convention please see the video introducing the Kiev Protocol.

  • Are there climate change indicators available, which can be used for a SEA and to help coastal planners? 

    Climate change indicators related to MSP are still under development. The BaltSpace project might come up with some of them. However, in the ICZM framework several useful indicators system related to land-sea interface (and here adoption to climate change is really important) have been developed and tested. An example is an indicator system covering Lithuanian coast and Kaliningrad (Russia) and Pomorskie (Poland) regions. There are also indictor systems related to climate change that can be used for SEA. For instance in order to help improving the ICZM-related decision-making, the BLAST project has developed a Coastal Indicator System (COINS).  Based on the 27 climate change indicators developed by the European Expert Group on ICZM, COINS indicates how coastal planners can take account of potential future impacts of climate change in their work. COINS is web-based, built on open source components and can be used free of charge from most web browsers under different operation systems.

  • Are recommendations available for how to carry out a trans-boundary SEA process?

    Article 10 of the Kiev Protocol under the Espoo Convention sets out the requirements for trans-boundary consultations. It defines whether notification is needed, what it should contain, the procedure for entering into consultations, and necessary arrangements for consultations. In brief notification is required when the implementation of a plan or programme is likely to have significant trans-boundary environmental effects. The Party of origin shall consider themselves the scope and significance of environmental impacts and notify when it considers that that plan or programme is likely to have significant trans-boundary effects, but also the Party likely to be significantly affected can request to be notified. The notification shall be as early as possible before the adoption of the plan or programme. The specific information necessary for the notification may vary between plans and programmes as well as depending on the scope, extent and foreseen effects of the plan or programme in question. As the notification is to be prepared by the responsible authority in the country where the plan or programme is prepared, this authority has to define in detail what information is to be included in the notification. In general the notification shall include, inter alia, the draft plan or programme and the environmental report, including information on its possible environmental, including health, effects; and information regarding the decision-making procedure, including an indication of a reasonable time schedule for the transmission of comments. But this is not an exhaustive list; it may also be advisable to submit other relevant information, such as public information materials, possible background documents or a request for information on the environment of the potentially affected area. In each country, which is party to the Espoo Convention there are nominated contact points that should be notified on the plans and programmes with significant trans-boundary environmental effects. List of Points of Contact regarding Notification in accordance with the provisions/requirements of the Espoo Convention is available at the Convention website.

    So far there are only few examples of the SEA trans-boundary procedures related to MSP plans. For instance trans-boundary MSP pilot in the Bothnian Sea reflects in chapter V on impact assessments required for an SEA and its requirements when preparing for certain sectors. It also provides information when setting the framework for the consent of future development projects listed in annexes to the EIA directive. In Germany SEAs (SEA for the Baltic Sea, SEA for the North Sea) have been elaborated for the two EEZs as obligatory part of the MSP process. Also in Lithuania MSP is accompanied by an SEA.

  • Are there recommendations available for how to carry out a trans-boundary SEA process with regard to offshore grid infrastructure and cable routing?

    Trans-boundary SEA process for planning linear infrastructure is complex. Many countries can be affected. The grid and cable plans are only under preparation now, and only in Germany such plan was formally adopted for the German EEZ of the North Sea. For the German EEZ of the Baltic Sea such plan is in the final stage of its adoption. When drawing up the German Spatial Offshore Grid Plans, an extensive Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) was carried out in accordance with the Environmental Impact Assessment Act. The SEA report as a result of the environmental assessment focuses on the description and assessment of significant effects on the marine environment likely to arise from the implementation of the plan.

    Some new insight on that issue can be expected under on-going INTERREG projects: Baltic InteGrid (Integrated Baltic offshore wind electricity grid development).

    Due to limited experience the recommendations how to carry out a trans-boundary SEA process for offshore grid infrastructure and cable routing are scarce. The available example can be a guiding document developed by the Seanergy 2020 project. It has developed Recommendations for Adaptation and Development of Existing and Potentially New International MSP Instruments. Those guidelines are very general and policy oriented, however their spirit might help in scoping the SEA reports for such type of cross-border or even sea-basin wide undertakings.

  • How to follow a coherent approach of an EIA in MSP?

    The EIA process usually follows preparation of the maritime spatial plans since it is related to permitting and licensing procedures in the case of concrete investments. So it appears at the stage of plans’ implementation.  In the EIA process maritime spatial plan can play important role by offering a useful frame for identifying possible interactions between given investment project (subject to EIA) and the marine and terrestrial environment and the health of the people. However it is up to the SEA responsible authorities to make the best use of the information available in the plan. 

    One should also keep in mind that in the situation of the absence of the maritime spatial plans investments can be realised based on sectoral law and procedures. Thus in many cases EIA report might be available before starting MSP. This was the case for instance for the Nord Stream pipeline. Its EIA reports furnished Baltic MSP with a lot of relevant environmental information. Therefore EIA reports can be used also as an input to the MSP at its stocktaking phase and also for assessment and evaluation of the maritime spatial plans.

    Best practice in terms of permitting and licensing comes from Seanergy 2020 project. The project provides thorough consideration of cross-sectoral impacts, in particular national laws that give effect to EU legislation namely the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Directive and the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive.

Cross-border Cooperation

  • What is the difference between cross-border consultation for a given MSP and general sea-basin cooperation on MSP?

    According to the Regional Baltic Maritime Spatial Planning Roadmap 2013-2020, the HELCOM-VASAB Guidelines on trans-boundary consultations, public participation and cooperation (HOD 50-2016) have been adopted in 2016. They could be of use for eventually all Baltic Sea countries to carry out trans-boundary consultation according to a common practice.

    Consultation of more practical topics is arising in the course of elaboration of maritime spatial plans, e.g. trans-boundary impacts of the plan, or trans-boundary coherence of the planning provisions. This usually takes place in bilateral or trilateral interactions (cross-border interactions) and refers to the formal process, which takes place between affected Baltic Sea Region (BSR) countries and their authorities on specific provisions foreseen in a given Maritime Spatial Plan.

    Cooperation on maritime spatial planning is understood as a more open and preparatory process with focus on information and knowledge exchange as well as development of common understanding. Co-operation at pan-Baltic level concerns strategic and farsighted decisions”.

    The cross-border consultation for a concrete cross-border plan can be different than general sea basin co-operation, although both processes might reinforce each other by building trust, extending knowledge, improving information sharing and stabilising personal contacts between maritime spatial planners from various countries. Example explanations of the differences can be found in:

  • How should cross-border cooperation be carried out between countries?

    The MSP Directive urges Member States to cooperate in their MSP processes with the aim of ensuring that maritime spatial plans are coherent and coordinated across the marine region concerned, especially taking into account issues of a transnational nature.

    The Directive does not set specific measures for cooperation, recognising that there are differences between marine and coastal areas. MSP authorities should develop the most appropriate mechanisms of cooperation. This is likely to include one authority circulating draft versions of their plan for comment by neighbouring authorities and those comments being taken into account. Comments may also be invited from other transnational organisations and stakeholders.

    Other mechanisms of cooperation may be agreed by authorities, such as a forum at an early stage of planning where issues of joint concern may be identified and priorities set out. This may be followed by subsequent meetings and on-going contact, where the development of key issues in emerging plans is kept under review. Established mechanisms for cooperation may extend to the implementation of maritime spatial plans.

    The Seanergy 2020 project has developed a set of seven criteria to evaluate the different MSP regimes across the 17 EU Member States one of which is cross-border cooperation. In this practice the findings concerning best practices in cross-boundary cooperation for MSP will be elaborated. In addition the Seaenergy 2020 project also produced a Cross Border MSP Case Study demonstrating transnational cooperation on MSP can lead to benefits for offshore wind development.

    The HELCOM-VASAB Working Group agreed on principles for trans-boundary consultation within specific MSP processes as well as trans-boundary pan-Baltic cooperation in more general terms. The guidelines are legally non-binding, but recommended to be applied voluntarily to set joint standards for MSP cooperation in the Baltic Sea region as outlined in the guidelines.

    The study, Cross-border cooperation in Maritime Spatial Planning, was designed to assist the European Commission (EC) and Member States in the implementation of the MSP Directive through the identification of good practices of MSP, with a particular focus on cross-border cooperation. The practices are derived from reviewing an inventory of non-European global MSP processes, and an in-depth analysis of four case studies. The practices are presented to support and encourage cross-border cooperation in MSP, while recognizing that MSP is primarily a social and political process with major economic consequences, as well as a scientific and technical challenge.

    With respect to MSP cooperation with third countries, the project East West Window has demonstrated how to involve Russia to MSP even when authorities responsible for MSP were not existing. Further investigation into this topic is included as part of the study on cross-border consultation, prepared by the EU MSP Platform for the European Commission, to be made available in late 2018.

  • Are there already examples of trans-boundary plans available to show how such a plan could look like with proposals for selected areas and recommendations for designated issues?

    The Trans-boundary Planning in the European Atlantic (TPEA) Project was part-funded by DG MARE with the objective of investigating the delivery of a commonly agreed approach to cross-border maritime spatial planning (MSP) in the European Atlantic region. TPEA was a pilot initiative, bringing together Government bodies, research centres and data agencies from the UK, Portugal, Spain, and Ireland.

    Compared to other European Sea Basins trans-boundary plans in the Baltic Sea are reasonably well developed. A number of projects have been carried out over the past decade. The first major project BaltSeaPlan accompanied the EU Maritime Policy by supporting the introduction of Integrated Maritime Spatial Planning within Baltic Sea Region. More recently, the Baltic SCOPE project   conducted case studies for two cross border areas: the Southwest Baltic (South-West Sweden bordering Denmark, Germany and Poland) and the Central Baltic (the Latvian sea border with Sweden and Estonia).

    The EU DG Mare funded ADRIPLAN aimed to deliver a commonly-agreed approach to cross-border MSP in the Adriatic-Ionian region, considered as a whole and more specifically through two Focus Areas: (1) Northern Adriatic Sea; (2) Southern Adriatic/Northern Ionian Sea.

    The case studies included in the study, Cross-border cooperation in Maritime Spatial Planning, are four non-European examples of cross-border MSP processes and plans: the Rhode Island Ocean Special Area Management Plan (SAMP); The Commission for Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR); The Coral Triangle Initiative for Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security (CTI- CFF); and Xiamen Marine Functional Zoning (MFZ). Case study summary reports are available to present an overview of each MSP initiative, and outcomes and lessons learned from each process.

    The MARSPLAN - BS project included development of a pilot maritime spatial plan for a cross-border area Mangalia-Shabla, between Bulgaria and Romania. The pilot plan was developed in 5 steps: review and analysis of existing and future activities and uses in the cross-border area Mangalia (RO) – Shabla (BG), development and assessment of alternative strategic scenarios for the region, selection and description of the optimal strategic scenario and goals for maritime spatial planning,  elaboration of a Maritime Spatial Plan for the Cross-border area next to the Romanian and the Bulgarian Black sea coast.

Stakeholder involvement

  • How can the general public be engaged in MSP?

    As noted, the broadly used term ‘stakeholders’ in fact represents a complex mixture of different actors, with differing levels of interest, influence, capacity / willingness to engage, etc. The general public, i.e. citizens, represent an important group to be engaged, to address their needs and concerns, and ensure legitimacy of the process. A range of formal and informal practices exist in engaging the public; almost all MSP initiatives will be required to implement formal public engagement to fulfil various requirements, particularly those set out in the Aarhus Convention Formal processes have the advantage of being required by law (in cases such as the UK) hence practices such as development of a “Statement of Public Participation” provide a publically documented process of engagement throughout the MSP process, and to which planning authorities can be held account. Other public statements of engagement include the “Issues and Opportunities Report” produced by the Irish Sea Maritime Forum. More general recommendations and learning regarding the processes and mechanisms of engagement of the public in MSP are numerous, and include for example the development of the Municipal spatial structure plan-Strunjan (Shape) for the pilot plan in Slovenia, and guidelines produced by the HELCOM-VASAB MSP Working Group.

    The ‘Handbook on How to Develop Visions in MSP’ provides suggestions on tools and practices that can be used for engagement of wide range of stakeholders, including general public. For example, tools such as micro-site, an interactive online platform with discussion pages, have been emphasized as helpful for reaching wider public and capturing input. For example, the Celtic Seas Partnership future trends used an interactive online platform to present their scenarios, while the MEDTRENDS project also uses an interactive online platform to show an in depth analysis of the current situation and future trends in four main marine economic sectors, their drivers and environmental impacts.

  • What insights and recommendations engaging sector stakeholders in MSP are available from experience so far?

    As the principal subjects of MSP and whose activities will likely be influenced by the developed plans, effectively involving the maritime industry and sector representatives in MSP processes is crucial. Early engagement is particularly important, and working with sectors to understand their future ambitions and development trends can ensure a MSP process that facilitates sustainable sector growth. Experience in this regard was drawn from the workshops undertaken through the PartiSEApate project, which developed an understanding of sector perspectives as a basis for contribution to a pan-Baltic MSP dialogue. Industry are involved in most marine planning efforts across the EU and lessons learned through these have been evaluated and translated into guidance and recommendations in some cases, for example the BaltSeaPlan and through the Coexist project.

    ‘Sectors’ are generally multi-faceted and complex in their composition, and it may be appropriate to engage at different levels, including via industry groups or designated officials who represent that sectors interest and are closely involved in the planning process. As part of strategic planning for offshore wind in the UK, fisheries representatives were nominated to engage directly with the development process, to voice their concerns, to negotiate areas of common ground and smooth planning processes. 

    Multi-Stakeholder Partnership Guide: How to Design and Facilitate Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships? was developed by the the Centre of Development Innovation (CDI), of Wageningen University & Research proposes a clear four phase process model, a set of seven core principles, key ideas for facilitation and 60 participatory tools for analysis, planning and decision making. The guide has been developed for any type of the Multi-Stakeholder partnership, for those directly involved in it - as a stakeholder, leader, facilitator or funder. It provides both the conceptual foundations and practical tools that underpin successful partnerships. 

  • What innovative methods exist for developing capacity of stakeholders in MSP?


    An MSP process usually considers participation of a wide range of stakeholders, including the general public with varying levels of familiarity with MSP. Practices are emerging which take a more creative approach to developing the capacity of individuals and groups to understand and engage with the MSP process. For example, “Become a Maritime Spatialist in 10 minutes

    cartoon developed by WWF Germany, uses a comic approach to depict the objectives and possible benefits of an MSP process. The fact that the movie is available in multiple languages facilitated its dissemination across Europe and across the globe. Moreover, its visuals are often used in numerous publications and presentations.

    Another example of an innovative method for developing capacity is the Dutch-developed MSP Challenge Simulation Game 2050. The game comes as a board game or a computer-supported simulation-game that gives actors insight in the diverse challenges of sustainable planning of human activities in the marine and coastal ecosystem. Apart from informing about the MSP process, such experience can serve to ensure shared understanding of challenges to be addressed by an MSP process and allows for exchange of possible management solutions. 

Climate change

  • Are there examples of plans or pilot plans taking climate change mitigation and/or adaptation measures into consideration?

    Scotland National Marine Plan is a pilot marine plan, developed for the Firth of Clyde in Scotland, as part of a number of pilots to inform the development of marine planning in Scotland. It considers climate change both in terms of how actions under the Plan might help mitigate the degree of anthropogenic induced climate change and also how the Plan need to be adapted to take into account the effects of climate change. Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Measures in the general principles and also specifically referring to measures specifically oriented to different maritime sectors.

    The Pilot Draft Plan for the West Part of the Gulf of Gdańsk (PL) points out the need for adequate technical solutions for infrastructures, coping with climate change (sea level rise) is stressed. Specific technical solutions are envisaged in order to respect the restriction that the height of above-water structures, built for scientific, environmental and nature conservation needs, should not exceed 5.5 m above sea level. At the same time, the pilot plan points out the lack of knowledge on how climate change will affect the protection of marine areas in long term, and how, in turn, the protection will influence the development of coastal communities is pointed out.

    The Pilot Coastal Plan for Šibenik-Knin County (Croatia) recommends several adaptation measures for the county coastal area; some being also relevant for marine and maritime aspects, e.g.:

    • Infrastructure: protection against coastal flooding, adaptation of the existing coastal infrastructure to the expected higher sea levels, climate proofing of future infrastructure
    • Spatial planning: implementation of Article 8 of the ICZM Protocol for the Mediterranean establishing set-back zones along the coast, managed realignment to reduce vulnerability to climate change impacts, marine spatial planning for more sustainable and resilient sea use.
    • Governance and management: ICZM coordination body at regional level, creating favourable conditions for participation, awareness raising and capacity building.

    Experiences of implementation of plans for coastal protection and management and adaptation to climate change effects, such as erosion and submersion risks, are available from the results of the COASTANCE project (namely from the practice Territorial Action Plans for Coastal Protection and Management). The focus is on low sandy or pebbly coastal zones and their inlands, the most expo­sed to sea level rise, erosion and submersion risks. Soft options like beach nourishment, while also being temporary and needing regular replenishment, appear more acceptable than hard defence structures (e.g. breakwaters, seawalls, groynes), and go some way to restore the natural dynamism of the shoreline. This has clear MSP implication in terms of identification and exploitation of submerged sand deposits. Practical applications are already available: Region of Eastern Macedonia & Thrace (GR), Département de l'Hérault (FR), Emilia-Romagna Region (IT) and various areas in Cyprus.

  • Are there examples of integration of climate variability and climate change into strategies implementing ICZM and MSP in specific sea regions?

    Some experiences are available for the Mediterranean Sea:

    • The Macro-Project of the Bologna Charter and its Joint Action Plan (JAP) represent a coordinated effort of the Mediterranean coastal Administrations (sub-national level) to face concretely the challenges of the coastal natural risk, by adaptation policies contributing to develop conditions for the Blue Growth in the Mediterranean. The JAP identifies concrete actions for implementation of adaptation policies to the risks driven by climate change. Structural works and management solutions are identified. Works include coastal defences and closely related infrastructures and actions, like waterfronts, port arrangements, touristic assets, natural protected areas, etc.
    • Within the MedPartnership, UNEP/MAP, its Regional Activity Centres PAP and Blue Plan, and GWP-Med run the project “Integration of Climatic Variability and Change into national strategies to implement the ICZM Protocol in the Mediterranean (ClimVar & ICZM)". "Guidelines for adapting to Climate Variability and Change along the Mediterranean Coast" were prepared. These Guidelines offer specific information on how to integrate climate variability and climate change into national ICZM strategies, plans or programmes, making reference to the Protocol on ICZM in the Mediterranean which applies also to territorial sea (art. 8). The entire process is guided through a set of steps (Establishment, Analysis and Future, Setting the Vision, etc.).
    • COP19 of the Barcelona Convention endorsed on February 2016 the "Regional Climate Change Adaptation Framework for the Mediterranean Marine and Coastal Areas". The main objective of the Framework is to set a regional strategic approach to increase the resilience of the Mediterranean marine and coastal natural and socioeconomic systems to the impacts of climate change, assisting policy makers and stakeholders at all levels across the Mediterranean in the development and implementation of coherent and effective policies and measures by identifying strategic objectives, strategic directions and priorities.
  • Which elements/conditions are needed to effectively include climate change with MSP process?

    The PartiSEApate project promoted a dialogue on MSP at pan-Baltic level between sectors and planners. The Transnational MSP Stakeholder dialogue pointed out some relevant needs for MSP process related to climate change:

    • Appropriate communication and information strategies are needed to allow spatial planners to access and interpret climate change data. Planners at the local level require support in downscaling global and regional trends and projection to their local situation.
    • Due to the uncertainty of prognoses concerning environmental, as well as socio-economic changes, MSP national legislation needs to become more flexible regarding climate change adaptation issues, e.g. through “adaptive licensing”.
    • (For the Baltic Region) A pan-Baltic multi-level strategy for integrating climate change adaptation into MSP and ICZM should be developed.
    • Collaboration between MSP and climate change adaption experts is required both at the practical as well as the policy level.
    • Climate change may have significant impacts on many sectors. So far, however, only consequences resulting from sea level rise are generally taken into account. The value of maintaining and strengthening ecosystem services (securing sectors like fishery, tourism, energy production, etc.) should receive greater attention.

    Still in the Baltic, MARISPLAN investigated how climate change can influence the ecosystem of the Baltic Sea and its uses. How the society can adapt its policies and uses of the marine ecosystem in a changing climate was assessed, and GIS-based MSP tools were developed.

  • Are there climate change indicators available to support coastal planners that can be useful in taking care of land-sea interactions?

    Climate change indicators to be used in coastal planning are available from the Coastal Indicator System (COINS), developed within the BLAST project. COINS is based on the 27 sustainability indicators identified by the European Expert Group on integrated coastal zone management (ICZM) and concentrates on the indicators particularly related to the impact of climate change. Examples of (directed or undirected) climate-related indicators included in COINS are:

    A - Indicators aiming at controlling further development on undeveloped coasts:

    Demand for property on the coast
    The area of built-up land
    Rate of development of undeveloped land
    Demand for road travel on the coast.

    B Indicators recognising the threat to coastal areas from climate change:

           5. Coastal zone erosion
           6. Natural, human and economic assets at risk.

    C Indicator recognizing the sustainable development value of the coastal area:

           7. Potential of the coastal zone as a resource for renewable energy.

    Coastal planners can visualise the effects of climate change on coastal areas using the COINS system. They are able to develop scenarios of socio-economic development balanced with environmental protection that are realistically constrained by the potential effects of climate change.

    The SUSTAIN project has developed an indicator-based methodology and scoring system, DeCyDe for Sustainability Policy tool, which enables a self- assessment approach for local and regional authorities, to evaluate their sustainability performance for the purpose of improving the management of coastal zones.