Maritime spatial planning

Maritime spatial planning

Maritime spatial planning

Maritime spatial planning

What is it?

copyright Silvia Baldan

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.

What are the benefits of maritime spatial planning?

  • Reduce conflicts between sectors and create synergies between different activities.
  • Encourage investment – by creating predictability, transparency and clearer rules.
  • Increase cross-border cooperation – between EU countries to develop energy grids, shipping lanes, pipelines, submarine cables and other activities, but also to develop coherent networks of protected areas.
  • Protect the environment – through early identification of impact and opportunities for multiple use of space.

Where are we now?

2014: Adoption of the 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?

Technical support

European MSP Platform

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.

Funding MSP cross-border projects

These EU-funded projects are designed to facilitate cooperation between EU countries in the management of maritime space and, since 2015,  to support the implementation of the MSP legislation.

  • Plan Bothnia - Preparatory action on maritime spatial planning in the Baltic Sea (2010-12). Completed. Pilot plan, map service.
  • BaltSeaPlan - Baltic Sea region programme "Introducing Maritime Spatial Planning in the Baltic Sea" (2009–12). Completed. Recommendations, pilot Maritime Spatial Plans, web-advanced MSP tool.
  • TPEA, Transboundary Planning in the European Atlantic – Project on maritime spatial planning in the Atlantic, including the Celtic Sea and Bay of Biscay (2012-14). Completed. Pilots, good practice guide.
  • ADRIPLAN - ADRiatic Ionian maritime spatial PLANning (2013-15). Completed. Data portal, tools4MSP.
  • SIMCELT- promoting practical cross-border cooperation between EU countries on the implementation of the maritime spatial planning directive in the Celtic Seas (2015-17) Completed. Case studies, board game and data portal.
  • Baltic SCOPE - Cross-border solutions in Baltic maritime spatial plans (2015-17). Completed. Topic papers, joint maps and online tool.
  • MARSPLAN – MSP in the Black Sea (2015-17).  Completed. Case studies, common strategic framework for MSP, MSP for cross-border area (Mangalia - Shabla).
  • SIMNORAT –  Project to support the implementation of Maritime Spatial Planning in EU countries, launch and carry out concrete and cross-border MSP initiatives between Member States in the North Atlantic Region (2017-18). Completed. Project Results. Final Conference – Documents. Case Study Workshop.   
  • SIMWESTMED – Project to support Maritime Spatial Planning, launch and carry out concrete and cross-border MSP initiatives between EU countries in the in the Western Mediterranean (2017-18). Completed. Project results. Final conference documents.
  • SUPREME – Project to support the implementation of Maritime Spatial Planning in EU countries within their marine waters in the Eastern Mediterranean, including the Adriatic, Ionian, Aegean and Levantine Seas, launch and carry out concrete and cross-border MSP initiative between EU countries in the Eastern Mediterranean (2017-18). Completed. Results.
  • Pan Baltic Scope - builds upon the previous project to continue developing innovative tools, exchanging data and harmonising MSP approaches, expanding the principles to the entire Baltic Sea.  (2018 – 2019).
  • SEANSE develops and tests a common approach to Strategic Environmental Assessments focussing on renewable energy and supporting the deployment of maritime spatial plans in the North Sea. (2018-2020)
  • MarSP - The project provides management tools tailored to the environmental and socio-economic settings of each archipelago in Macaronesia (2018-2020).
  • OCEAN METISS -  The project aims to develop MSP tools on both a regional and a local scale to boost economy while preserving the region's rich biodiversity in Reunion, an outermost region of the European Union and one of the overseas departments of France, in the Indian Ocean (2017-2019). Completed. Documents.
  • MSP GLOBAL WEST MED PILOT- The project aims to promote good MSP practices and activities to meet both regional and national priorities and needs in the context of Western Mediterranean by increasing cooperation between EU and non-EU countries in line with the WESTMED initiative. (2019). 


MSP worldwide

In order to learn from MSP worldwide, we have launched a study on international best practices for cross-border MSP.

The main objectives are to:

  • Establish a detailed inventory of MSP implementation in the world;
  • Explore four case studies of MSP implementation to identify best practices in relation to the requirements of Directive 2014/89/EU;
  • Prepare recommendations on the format, scope and added-value of international cooperation on MSP

The "Joint Roadmap to accelerate Maritime/Marine Spatial Planning processes worldwide" adopted during the 2nd International Conference on Maritime Spatial Planning, in March 2017 in Paris, foresees the creation of an international forum for discussion and exchanges on cross-border MSP at international level.

Three workshops of the International MSP Forum have already taken place in Brussels on 24-25 May 2018, La Reunion on 26-29 March 2019 and in Vigo on 12-15 May 2019. These meetings build on a wide exchange of good practices and interactive discussions in order to work towards the creation of  international guidelines on transboundary MSP. 

Sector specific workshops

More info

Video: Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) in a nutshell

Maritime Forum

Maritime affairs