Exploring uses of maritime surveillance data for marine spatial planning: A review of scientific literature


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Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) has become of key interest in many countries around the world in the last decade, leading to an increased need to inform the historical spatial and temporal footprint of maritime activities. If this knowledge was still recently considered a blind spot, recent developments of maritime surveillance systems (e.g. AIS, VTS, VMS) have allowed to fill some of these gaps by generating significant amounts of spatial data on ships at sea. In this paper, the use of these maritime surveillance data for planning purposes is explored through the lens of the international scientific literature. A first set of 2030 articles dealing with maritime surveillance data and collected through the Web of Science collection was explored to determine the type of data used, the maritime activities addressed and the main objective of each paper (technical developments, safety and security, environmental protection, MSP). This allowed to highlight the growing interest on maritime surveillance data in the scientific literature over the past decades, predominantly towards AIS data and shipping. Over the 2030 papers, only 63 dealt specifically with MSP. These were extracted and explored, allowing to highlight the potential of these data to feed in MSP processes, with a specific focus on fisheries. Nevertheless, the description of actual uses of surveillance-based information within MSP processes remained particularly rare. If this can be seen as a result of a science-policy delay, we suggest that it is mostly related to issues of accessibility, acceptance by economic stakeholders and appropriation by decision makers.

Sea Basin(s): 
March 2020
Application in MSP: 
Unknown effect
Not sector specific
Type of Issue: 
Coexistence of uses
Safety aspects
Type of practice: 
Stage of MSP cycle: 
Analyse spatial aspects
Cross-border / trans-national aspect: 
Coherence with other processes: 
Common Fisheries Policy
Habitats and Birds Directive
Integrated Coastal Zone Management
Marine Strategy Framework Directive
Renewable Energy Directive
Strategic Environmental Assessment

Questions this practice may help answer: 

  • How is maritime surveillance data used in scientific literature?  
  • How is maritime data used in scientific literature related to MSP? 
  • How can maritime surveillance data be better applied in the MSP process?  

Implementation Context: 

The review of the scientific literature of maritime surveillance data has been drafted as part of the main author's ongoing PhD research: "What contribution can space-based monitoring information make to Maritime Spatial Planning?".   

Aspects / Objectives: 

The aim of the paper is to provide an overview of the main uses of maritime surveillance data in the scientific literature. The study focuses on maritime surveillance data in MSP as an emerging concern.   


The scientific literature involved a comprehensive set of international peer-reviewed publications, which were explored using the automated and manual approaches to identify a wide range of characteristics, including the types of data used, activities addressed, objectives, technical treatments, limitations etc.  

Main Outputs / Results: 

The study highlights an increasing interest in the maritime surveillance data in general and, specifically, in MSP. It also identifies the main limitations that need to be addressed in order to make a better use of data in the MSP process. 


The scientific literature review can contribute to any work on the use of maritime surveillance data in the MSP process in any country. 

Responsible Entity: 

Université de Bretagne Occidentale 

Stratégies Mer et Littoral (consulting agency) 

Funding Source: 

National Association for Technological Research (ANRT), France 

Stratégies Mer et Littoral (consulting agency), 

Contact person: 

Clément Dupont