Maritime Spatial Planning

The SUBMARINER Network is a partner in the Capacity4MSP project which aims to intensify the dialogue between Baltic practitioners involved in MSP.  This webpage presents the key facts, reports, networks and other relevant information on MSP in the Baltic Sea Region. 

About MSP

Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) is defined in the European Commission’s Directive on MSP as ‘a process by which the relevant Member State’s authorities analyse and organise human activities in marine areas to achieve ecological, economic and social objectives’..In practice, MSP has been considered world-wide even in a broader way as encompassing both formal and informal public undertakings and initiatives on how to use the sea space in line with societally agreed goals, values and targets. MSP can result in plans, permits and other administrative decisions that decide on the spatial and temporal distribution of relevant existing and future activities and uses in the marine waters, but the outcome of MSP can also take the form of different non-binding visions, strategies, planning concepts, guidelines and governance principles related to the use of sea space.

Generally, MSP is seen as an integrative process to cope with the increasing demand for maritime space from traditional and emerging sectors while preserving the proper functioning of the marine ecosystems. They key feature of MSP is its functional character i.e. integration of various sectors, societal needs, values and goals. MSP represents a move from traditional single sector planning to a more integrated approach to the planning of the sea. 

Information hub on Maritime Spatial planning


What are required capability or site suitability parameters for human activities in offshore environments?SouPl

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 examplesuitability 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).

Source: EU MSP Platform

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 how climate change will influence the ecosystem in 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.

Source: EU MSP Platform

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

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.

Source: EU MSP Platform

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

Cross sectoral synergies can be achieved in practice and at the operational level through the combination of different maritime uses at the same location or with multi-use offshore platforms which contributes to the  sustainable and efficient use of maritime space and natural resources. 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 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.

Multi-use in Europe has so far been explored at the project level. The TROPOS project designed a modular MU platform concept for use in deep waters, focusing on the Mediterranean, tropical and sub-tropical regions. The MERMAID project examined different design concepts, such as the combination of structures or different uses at representative sites under different conditions. H2Ocean instead focused specifically on the combination of wind and wave power for hydrogen generation, supporting multiple energy users. The MARIBE project focused on analysing and developing business cases for a selection of most promising MU combinations. 

The MUSES project went beyond exploring technological solutions to review and analysed other barriers and opportunities for a variety of multi-use combinations at the national and sea basin level. The following project outputs give examples of multiuse opportunities in Europe: 

  • The MUSES project Multi-Use Analysis report provides a clear overview of multi-use potential (including environmental, economic and societal benefits) and barriers specifically  for 13 multi-use combinations.
  • The Sea Basin Synthesis report identifies potential and barriers for MU applications across the five European sea basins, depicting MU applications with real potential and maps out their location and the opportunities to promote MU implementation. 
  • The MUSES Multi-Use Action Plan builds up on all the MUSES work packages and reports to provide actions and recommendations on what should be done, and by whom to address multi use barriers.

These reports overall highlight major barriers (inappropriate regulations, operational, environmental, health and safety, technology, societal and legal aspects) stalling the transition of multi-use of ocean from a concept to real life recognition and practical implementation. They also highlight good practices, case studies and recommendations across the EU related to multi-use concepts. The following are some findings and examples of multi-use opportunities based on the project outputs: 

  • The North Sea, Eastern Atlantic and the Baltic Sea have a strong offshore wind energy sector that could potentially develop further while also allowing growth in other relevant Blue Growth sectors such as tourism, fishing and aquaculture.
  • 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 supposed 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) have strong potential in the Mediterranean and Baltic Sea and other environmental/conservation benefits of this MU have been realised; 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. 
  • The MU combinations that concern the diversification of tourism and fishing sector in combination with sustainability and environmental protection goals are relevant in the Mediterranean, the Black Sea and the coastal areas of the Eastern Atlantic; with existing examples in Italy, France, Spain, Portugal and Greece
  • 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.
  • The North Sea and specific areas of the Mediterranean Sea (Northern Adriatic in particular) have the potential for development of innovative solutions for sustainable reuse of decommissioned O&G platforms

Source: EU MSP Platform

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 EBAhave been modified for application in marine planning in England. Implementation of EBA in MSP in Latviafollows 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.

Source: EU MSP Platform

Videos on MSP 

Latest news in Maritime Spatial planning

Upcoming events


SUBMARINER Network for Blue Growth EEIG

Kärntener Str. 20
DE–10827 Berlin



This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.