Maritime Affairs

Maritime spatial planning

Maritime spatial planning

Maritime spatial planning

What is it?

© 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)
  • BaltSeaPlan - Baltic Sea region programme "Introducing Maritime Spatial Planning in the Baltic Sea" (2009–12)
  • 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)
  • ADRIPLAN - ADRiatic Ionian maritime spatial PLANning (2013-15)
  • 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.
    Baltic SCOPE increased collaboration and coordination on shipping, fisheries, energy, environment and maritime spatial planning both between national authorities and between other key stakeholders. It created stronger links between the planning authorities. It provided planners with new knowledge, tools and methods to deal with transboundary issues. It encouraged a pan-Baltic approach to maritime spatial planning and in the long run it will make the national maritime spatial plans of the Baltic Sea region more coherent. The Baltic SCOPE results were directly fed into the countries' planning processes, and are used by planning authorities nationally and internationally, in the HELCOM-VASAB Joint Working Group on MSP, HELCOM, VASAB, sister projects and the WWF UK.
  • MARSPLAN – MSP in the Black Sea (2015-17)
  • SIMNORAT – Atlantic Sea (2017-18)
  • SIMWESTMED – Western Mediterranean (2017-18)
  • SUPREME – Eastern Mediterranean (2017-18)
  • Pan Baltic Scope - will build upon the previous project to continue developing innovative tools, exchanging data and harmonising MSP approaches, expanding the principles to the entire Baltic Sea.
  • SEANSE will develop and test a common approach to Strategic Environmental Assessments focussing on renewable energy and supporting the deployment of maritime spatial plans in the North Sea.
  • MarSP - The biogeographic region of Macaronesia has unique natural assets. Its economy hinges on the services sector, particularly tourism.  The project will provide management tools tailored to the environmental and socio-economic settings of each archipelago.
  • OCEAN METISS - Nestled in the Indian Ocean, Reunion is an outermost region of the European Union and one of the overseas departments of France. Its waters are the refuge of sea turtles and dolphins and the West coast is ringed by coral reefs. 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.


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

Sector specific workshops

More info

Maritime Forum

Maritime affairs