MSP Sectors

Main Issues: 

In addition to the designated MSP authorities and their planning experts, numerous ministries as well as other public and private institutions with sectoral values and interests ‘manage’ marine and coastal areas and often done so prior to a Maritime Spatial Planning process. As a matter of fact integrated management institutions combining all blue sectors and interests under one roof rarely exist; in most MSP cases the cross-sector approach is therefore safeguarded by inter-ministerial working groups.

An integrated management plan will have many management actions applicable to sectors like marine transport, fisheries, offshore renewable energy, oils and gas and mineral extraction that use the resources of the marine area.

In order to achieve integration - it is crucial to understand the optimal spatial conditions and requirements of each sector individually. In most cases this work has to go hand in hand with the sectors because many of them (esp. the traditional sectors) are not used to think in “spatial” and/or cross-sectoral terms. Please see the section MSP Sectors for more information about spatial conditions and requirements of individual sectors. 

FAQs related to the following sectors are provided below:

Shipping | Offshore Wind Energy | Fisheries and Aquaculture | Underwater Cultural Heritage | Nature Conservation | Research | Oil-Gas| Ocean Energy (Wave and Tidal)

Frequently Asked Questions

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 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. 


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.



Mapping cumulative noise from shipping to inform marine spatial planning

Including ocean noise in marine spatial planning requires predictions of noise levels on large spatiotemporal scales. Based on a simple sound transmission model and ship track data (Automatic Identification System, AIS), cumulative underwater acoustic energy from shipping was mapped throughout 2008 in the west Canadian Exclusive Economic Zone.

Maritime Strategy for Västra Götaland

To develop the maritime sector further, a strategy is needed that brings together all players around a set of objectives and a vision of the direction that development will take.

Maritime Safety & Sustainable Spatial and Regional Development: Implementation Manual

Recommendations how MSP needs to take into account coastal planning, ship routing, port development, offshore wind development, transnational infrastructure planning, Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas as well as different EU Directives.

Recommendations for Adaptation and Development of Existing and Potentially New International MSP Instruments

Recommendation for an offshore grid infrastructure and cable routing for a pan-European grid at sea, for which a strategic planning at international level is necessary.

Safety Zones around offshore renewable energy developments

Safety zones are granted by DECC or the MMO during the construction, maintenance and decommissioning phases of an OREI development, in order to safeguard the safety of other users of the marine environment and the OREI itself.

Offshore wind parks and maritime safety in the EEZ of the Baltic Sea Region

This case in the offshore area Kriegers Flak I (EE of Germany) demonstrates how international, and regional policies and legislation are implemented in a sea-planning procedure, and how participation processes include stakeholders on several levels.

Assessment framework for defining safe distances between shipping lanes and offshore wind farms

This practice shows how safety distances can be calculated between areas used for shipping and offshore wind farms.

Shipping in the Baltic Sea - Developments relevant for Maritime Spatial Planning

The report synthesises availble information on shipping in the Baltic Sea. Particular attention is paid to (future) developments that should be taken into account by MSP.

Safety Zones around offshore renewable energy developments

Safety zones are granted by DECC or the MMO during the construction, maintenance and decommissioning phases of an OREI development, in order to safeguard the safety of other users of the marine environment and the OREI itself.

Applying Marxan for offshore wind power in the western Baltic Sea

The study uses Marxan, (a decision support tool for mostly used in conservation planning) to optimize algorithms to find the most cost-efficient site selection suitable for offshore wind farm installations in Germany, Sweden, Poland and Denmark.

Offshore wind parks and maritime safety in the EEZ of the Baltic Sea Region

This case in the offshore area Kriegers Flak I (EE of Germany) demonstrates how international, and regional policies and legislation are implemented in a sea-planning procedure, and how participation processes include stakeholders on several levels.

Recommendations for Adaptation and Development of Existing and Potentially New International MSP Instruments

Recommendation for an offshore grid infrastructure and cable routing for a pan-European grid at sea, for which a strategic planning at international level is necessary.

Perspectives of Offshore Wind Energy development in Lithuania, Poland and Russia

The goal of the project is fostering further development of offshore wind parks and reducing environmental and investment risks.

Scoping Study for Offshore Wind Farm Development in Scottish Waters

This report describes the process employed by Marine Scotland to identify strategic search areas for future commercial scale offshore wind developments in Scottish Territorial Waters (STW). It documents the development of the spatial analysis tools to support sectoral planning for offshore wind.

Scoping Study for Offshore Wave Energy Development in Scottish Waters

This report describes the process employed by Marine Scotland in collaboration with The Crown Estate to develop a series of new wave energy plan options within Scottish marine waters.

Scoping Study for Tidal Stream Energy Development in Scottish Waters

This report describes the process employed by Marine Scotland in collaboration with The Crown Estate to develop a series of new offshore tidal stream energy plan options within Scottish marine waters.

Zadar county integrated sea use and management plan

The “Zadar county integrated sea use and management plan” is a legally binding plan focusing on mariculture, being this one of the most important maritime activity in the county. The plan has designated marine areas for specific types of mariculture (as for example fish cage farming of sea brass and sea bream), taking also in consideration potential conflicts with other maritime activities.

Fisheries in the Maritime Spatial Planning context

This report investigates the possible opportunities and suitability of using spatial planning to prepare regulations in fisheries management, analyses the current legal situation and provides samples of proposed regulations to be included in MSPs.

Model for spatial fishery planning and effort displacement

DISPLACE allows contributing to marine spatial planning for evaluating the effects on stocks and fisheries and ultimately incorporating other utilization of the sea such as energy production, transport, recreational use, etc.

Mapping Baltic Fisheries in support of Maritime Spatial Planning

This case study addresses the integration of the fisheries management into the Maritime Spatial Planning process in the Baltic Sea Region.

The MareFrame Decision Support Framework

Developing, testing and adapting a decision support framework (DSF) to provide an evidence basis for policy makers and other stakeholders about the trade-off between various management options on a multispecies basis.

International fisheries management plan for Dogger Bank

MASPNose provided facilitation, support and financial means to allow the complex stakeholder process to take place with the aim of developing a plan for the Dogger Bank that integrated fishing with conservation of 3 Natura SACs. Ultimately, the stakeholders decided "to agree to disagree".

Guidance of Better Integration of Aquaculture, Fisheries, and other Activities in the Coastal Zone

The conclusions drawn and the recommendations in this document are largely based on the experience of applying a set of methods and technical tools to address a number of key questions in spatial management in six COEXIST case studies (Hardangerford, NO; Atlantic Coast, IE; Atlantic Coast, FR; Algarve Coast, PT; Adriatic Sea Coast, IT; Coastal North Sea, DE, NL, DK; Baltic Sea, FI)

MEFEPO - North Western Waters Atlas

The Atlas provides an overview of the North Western Waters ecosystem, covering issues including physcial and chemical features, habitat types, biological features, birds, mammals, Fishery and other human activities. This information is provided in non-technical language and intended to help policy makers, managers and stakeholders in decision making.

Individual Stress Level Analysis (ISLA)

This tool quantifies the impact on the activity of interest by future activities in terms of losses of parameters of interest while using R software (revenues, jobs, etc.)

Analysis of Conflict Scores

This tool allows 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.

Georeference Interactions Database

GRID has a dedicated GIS application to analyse spatial distribution of present and future activities and interactions.

Stakeholder consultation

The Stakeholder Consultation tool can be applied in various forms (from one-to-one conversations to online questionnaires). It should be used to increase the knowledge and to optimise the management of an area.

Global record of stocks and fisheries service

The Global Record of Stocks and Fisheries Knowledge Base service is being developed within the BLUEBRIDGE project ( and it is addressed to provide the basis for computing regional or global indicators on the status of fish stocks. Specifically, it will contribute to systematize a yearly production of FAO’s Global State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA) resources.

Spatial planning guidelines for Baltic Sea Region aquaculture

A spatial planning process for fish farming and mussel farming was conducted in the region of Jämtland and in the region of Kalmar in Sweden. The purpose of the processes was to test a common road map/manual for localizing sustainable aquaculture farms in the Baltic Sea Region. The manual was created in a real case scenario where ten fish farming locations were pointed out in the region of Jämtland and twelve favourable blue mussel farming sites were pointed out in the region of Kalmar. 

Designation and management of Allocated Zones for Aquaculture

Starting from an extensive review of several experiences of spatial planning in marine waters across the world assisting the aquaculture development, the article presents a framing procedure to properly design and manage Allocated Zones for Aquaculture (AZA), minimising environmental and socio-economic adverse impacts as well as negative interaction with other uses. The suggested procedure assigns a prominent role to MSP and the ecosystem approach in designing and managing AZA. The procedure includes the development of an Environmental Impact Assessment step leading to the definition of an Allowable Effect Zone and of an Aquaculture Management Area. A Monitoring Program to be developed for each management area is the last step foreseen by the suggested procedure, defining an appropriate spatial and temporal sampling design, proper indicators and Environmental Quality Standards (EQS).

Spatial planning for fisheries in the Northern Adriatic Sea

In the framework of ECOAST Project the DISPLACE fish and fishery model was applied to the Northern Adriatic Sea, an area characterized by intense and conflicting fishing activities, calling for science-based management actions. In this context, DISPLACE enabled assessing the effects of a suite of five spatial management scenarios (also called mitigation plans) suggested by practitioners, 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. Specifically, the effects of such scenarios on the sustainability of fish stock exploitation as well as the economic profitability of fishery were evaluated. A summary comparison among the investigated alternative spatial management scenarios was finally provided for policy makers in order to support a science-based effective management of fishery and fish stocks.

Special Framework for Spatial Planning and Sustainable Development for Aquaculture

Greece has adopted in 2011 a Special Framework for Spatial Planning and Sustainable Development for Aquaculture in order to provide guidelines, rules and criteria for the spatial structure, organization and development of aquaculture in the Greek territorial waters.

AquaSpace tool to support MSP

The AquaSpace tool was developed within the EU Horizon 2020 project AquaSpace in order to achieve an effective implementation of MSP for aquaculture by adopting an Ecosystem Approach to Aquaculture (EAA). The GIS-AddIn allows users to spatially represent and compare risks and opportunities of aquaculture development over a number of potential sites.

Synthesis of the lessons learned from the development and testing of innovative tools to support ecosystem-based spatial planning to aquaculture

This synthesis report summarises the research results and gathers recommendations on the further development needs of tools and strategies supporting spatial planning of sustainable aquaculture. 

Tools and methods supporting EAA: finding the gap towards an environmental Cost Benefit Analysis

This report describes a targeted review of tools and methods that can be used for the spatial allocation of aquaculture activities in terms of environmental and economic costs (e.g. risks) and benefits, within the overall Ecosystem Approach to Aquaculture (EAA) frame.

AquaSpace case study final reports

The AquaSpace deliverable “Case study final reports” provides a detailed overview of the 17 case studies developed by the project to test tools and strategies for the sustainable development and spatial allocation of aquaculture in a variety of environmental and socio-economic contexts.

Permission system for exploration and sustainable use of UCH

Classification of underwater cultural heritage in terms of its usability for development of underwater tourism. Rules and procedures regulating such tourism activities and measurement of its impact on development of coastal communities (new jobs for fishermen losing their economic base).

Pilot SEA for the Western Gulf of Gdansk

This practice 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.

Review of comprehensive management plan for Wadden Sea

The Trilateral Wadden Sea Plan is an agreement of how the countries envisage the coordination and integration of management of the Wadden Sea Area and of the projects and actions that must be carried out to achieve the commonly agreed targets. A joint vision was formulated that guides the implementation of plan.

Finnish Inventory Programme for the Underwater Marine Environment

The programme's (VELMU) objective is to survey marine habitats in Finnish waters, give an overview of species occurrence and develop a management system for data collected on the benthic marine environment. The programme collects data on the diversity of underwater marine biotopes and species.

Mapping of marine landscapes in the Baltic Sea

The BALANCE project outlined its approach of how the landscape of the Baltic Sea was mapped, including which seabed topographic, coastal physiographic and benthic data, secondary physical data as well as assemblages of species.

Mapping marine habitats in Kattegat

This pratical information set shows the mapping and modelling of habitats in the Kattegat.

Assessment of Ecological Coherence of the Marine Protected Areas Network

This set of practical information defines practical criteria and a first set of tools that can be used repeatedly to assess ecological coherence of the Baltic Sea MPA networks.

Representative Network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the Baltic Sea

This set of practical information presents a regional, systematic, transparent and ecologically based approach for identifying MPAs in the Baltic Sea.

Blue Corridors

This set of practical information introduces blue corridors and provides some examples and recommendations on how to work with Blue Corridors in practical marine spatial planning.

Mapping the marine landscape

This report summaries the work related to marine landscape and habitat mapping published in 17 independent BALANCE Interim Reports. The BALANCE mapping efforts has operated at two scales: regional sea and local/national.

MPA network functionality assessment

This set of practical information studied how different larvae spread. The findings served as input to a hydrographic model to analyse in how far plant spores and animal larvae can spread from one protected area to another.

Guide on available geo-data for coastal and marine planning

This guide shows which geo-data are available and indicates their characteristics as well as limitations. One finding was that there are more geodata available for marine areas than expected. Mostly these are mapped or modelled seabed and water characteristics, but there are also other kinds of data.