MSP Visions


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Main Issues: 

In order to take a forward-looking approach and prevent potential conflicts in the future, maritime visions can be developed as part of the MSP process. Such multi-objective visions can be developed through visioning exercises, scenarios and forecast development processes, or as part of strategic planning. Often, a combination of techniques is used. There are many variations of visions processes, with regard to their purpose, methods used, their geographical scale, initiating organisations, relationship with MSP and actual decision-making processes. The presentation of visions also varies greatly, from philosophical and artistic descriptions of the future to presentations of quantified analyses.

The 'Handbook for developing Visions in MSP' aims to assist planners in developing a maritime vision or a strategy, as well as assisting those who wish to prepare the terms of reference for facilitating a vision process. The handbook was developed as one of the three tasks of the Technical Study ‘MSP as a tool to support a sustainable Blue Economy’. It provides quick and easy access to relevant tools and methods, building on lessons learnt from vision development processes across Europe. It indicates a range of possibilities for working with visions, showcasing options and ideas, rather than being prescriptive.

Drawing up a vision or a strategy for a given marine space (be it at national or sea-basin wide scale) can have several advantages. It can help to communicate the benefits of an MSP process, stimulate public debate and stakeholder dialogues, increase awareness of future trends, define priorities for maritime space and ensure commitment to actions needed to reach a desired future. A vision process helps to clarify the focus of MSP and may also provide the basis to derive jointly agreed SMART objectives, towards which an MSP process should lead to.

The development of a vision for MSP is especially useful in:

• raising awareness of emerging issues and communicating benefits of an MSP process

• enabling cross-sectoral and multi-level co-ordination between different authorities addressing sectors and issues

• engaging stakeholders and capacity building, particularly where MSP is a new process

• providing a long-term focus for MSP that may exceed political cycles

• accounting for future uses not present so far

• achieving better land-sea integration of planning

Developing a transnational vision is particularly useful if, for example, the development of maritime sectors in one country influences maritime development in a bordering country whereby consensus is needed. On the other hand, many sectors require cross-border coherence in planning (e.g. shipping lanes, energy corridors, underwater cables), so developing e.g. a joint vision and planning principles can help in this regard. A vision or a strategy can also be an umbrella to better link MSP and coastal zone management objectives as well as territorial development in general, across a specific portion of space. 

How to develop visions in MSP?

The 'Handbook for developing Visions in MSP' follows a possible decision-making framework, first providing ideas on how some initial decisions can be made including what format, temporal scope, skills and resources could be used for developing a vision. The handbook also suggests concrete steps and elements needed to build a vision process, such as a stakeholder engagement strategy, analysis of future trends through forecasts and scenarios, or visualization and presentation techniques.

The PDF version allows users to skip through the handbook and read only the chapters relevant for them. It provides links between different tools explained in the handbook, as well as further reading material including other handbooks and practical examples.

Download the PDF version of the Handbook for developing Visions in MSP here.

Please note that this section of the EU MSP Platform website is not currently being updated with new information. However, the resources throughout our website remain relevant to our mission of sharing knowledge and experiences on MSP in the EU.

Frequently Asked Questions

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.




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.

Strategy: Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth

The practice sets out a roadmap for the Government’s vision, high-level goals and integrated actions across policy, governance and business to enable our marine potential to be realised. Implementation of this Plan will see Ireland evolve an integrated system of policy and programme planning for marine affairs.

Developing a framework for integrating terrestrial and marine planning

Development of marine spatial plans for Dorset (England) and Heist (Belgium) and elaborated materials show a comprehensive seabed map and different uses in parallel.

National Ocean Strategy 2013-2020

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.

EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region (EUSAIR)

EUSAIR was jointly developed by the EC, together with the Adriatic-Ionian Region countries and stakeholders, in order to address common challenges. The Strategy was adopted in 2014 together with its Action Plan. 

BaltSeaPlan Findings

The methodology for developing the vision: drawing together international & national sectoral trends and targets for the Baltic and to analyse the current international policy framework. This was followed by the development of the actual vision, which includes general pan-Baltic planning principles, concrete suggestions for how MSP could influence these transnational sea uses, and structures necessary for implementing the vision.

Study on perspectives of main grid network interconnection between countries and with potential wind parks

A review on development of electricity distribution systems in Poland, Lithuania and Kaliningrad district (Russia) and OWE development related problems. The study provides visionalised decisions for interconnection of main grid networks and potential wind power parks.

A flood of space: Towards a spatial structure plan for sustainable management of the North Sea

The main aim of the GAUFRE project was the delivery and the synthesis of the scientific knowledge on the use and possible impacts of use functions. Consequently, a first proposal of possible optimal allocations of all relevant use functions in the Belgian part of the North Sea (BPNS) was formulated.

North Sea 2050 Spatial Agenda

The report of joint research into the long-term potential of sea and coastal areas, translated into a vision, series of ambitions, opportunities, points of action and maps.
The visions and points for action are guiding the 'maritime spatial plan' for 2016-2021.

The overarching strategy of spatial development of Poland

The NSDC 2030 includes the maritime zone into the mainstream planning and extends the scope of cross-border interactions on land and sea. Sea space is present under all objectives of the NSDC, if appropriate, and it is divided into two functional zones EEZ and coastal zone.

Handbook for Visions in MSP

The 'Handbook for developing Visions in MSP' was developed as one of the three tasks of the MSP Platform Technical Study ‘MSP as a tool to support a sustainable Blue Economy’ carried out under the European MSP Platform. The purpose of the Handbook is to assist planners in developing a maritime vision or a strategy, as well as assisting those who wish to prepare the terms of reference for facilitating a vision process.

BaltSeaPlan Vision 2030

The BaltSeaplan Vision shows 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. It developed the principles, which should be applied by Baltic Sea states in any MSP process in the future; i.e. pan-Baltic thinking, spatial efficiency, spatial connectivity.

Vision of Particularly Sensitive Area 2020

The vision raises awareness about the PSSA framework and aims to increase international cooperation on maritime safety in general and on PSSA in particular. It intends to improve and extend common monitoring, navigational and vessels equipment solutions for the whole Baltic Sea area.

Methodological handbook on MSP in the Adriatic Sea

Chapter 4 of the Handbook lays out a preliminary common vision for the future of the Adriatic Sea taking into account environmental, economic, social, government as well as climate change and innovation issues.

Issues and Opportunities Report

This report, based on a stakeholder workshop held in 2012 and further consultation is 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 ISMF activity.