Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) in the EU

Competition for maritime space – for renewable energy equipment, aquaculture and other uses – has highlighted the need to manage our waters more coherently. Maritime spatial planning (MSP) works across borders and sectors to ensure human activities at sea take place in an efficient, safe and sustainable way. That is why the European Parliament and the Council have adopted legislation to create a common framework for maritime spatial planning in Europe.  (Directive 2014/89/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 July 2014 establishing a framework for maritime spatial planning: http://data.europa.eu/eli/dir/2014/89/oj)


MSP is ‘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’ (European Commission’s Directive on Maritime Spatial Planning – MSP Directive).  MSP is 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. MSP can results in plans, permits and other administrative decisions that decide on the spatial and temporal distribution of existing and future activities and uses in the marine waters. The effect of MSP can also be represented by non binding, political documents like strategies, concepts guidelines and other.  The key feature of MSP is its functional character i.e. integration of various sectors, societal needs, values and goals.  It represents modern, holistic and integrated approach to the sustainable management of the sea.


What are the benefits of maritime spatial planning?


Where are we now?

2014: Adoption of the MSP directive
2016: Deadline for transposition and designation of competent authorities
2021: Deadline for the establishment of maritime spatial plans


How does the EU support maritime spatial planning?

The Assistance Mechanism for MSP was launched in 2016 to provide administrative and technical support to EU countries in implementing the MSP legislation. The project manages a website featuring information on existing MSP practices, processes and projects, a question and answer service, technical studies and a focal point service for EU countries.


Overview of MSP related uses

  1. MSP Driver: willingness to balance between new and old users but with focus on navigation and ports;
  2. Current main uses: traditional: e.g. navigation, defence, tourism, nature protection, fishery, extraction of sand and gravel (only marginal oil and gas exploration);
  3. Issues: how to accommodate newcomers and make the best out of them for sustainable development of the coastal communities and ports;
  4. Future uses: wind energy, underwater tourism, aquaculture for marine protection (perhaps in long run).