EU adopts roadmap on maritime spatial planning

By Chris Westra on

Due to the increased activity on Europe’s seas competition is growing between different sectoral interests, such as shipping and maritime transport, offshore energy, port development, fisheries and aquaculture, and environmental concerns. Offshore wind power means more pressure on already limited marine space.
A collaborative and integrated approach to decision-making is required to secure the sustainable development of marine areas. On 25 November the European Commission adopted a “Roadmap for Maritime Spatial Planning”. It provides information on current maritime spatial planning practices in EU Member States and in third countries, outlines the instruments which impact upon it and sets out key principles underpinning it. The Communication seeks to encourage a broad debate on how a common approach to maritime spatial planning can be achieved in the EU. The roadmap is an important product of the EU’s new Integrated Maritime Policy, which the Commission launched in October 2007.

With this document an important process to facilitate large scale implementation of offshore wind power is started. Maritime spatial planning is designed to promote rational use of the sea and improve decision-making. It seeks to balance sectoral interests and thereby achieve sustainable use of marine resources. In sporting terms, if the competing human activities concerned are the players, maritime spatial planning is the referee in charge of overseeing fair play in a well-managed arena (the marine environment).


Of course, maritime spatial planning is much more than a concept ? it is a process which is determined by the specific needs and challenges of a given marine region and in which well-defined guiding aims, stakeholder involvement and data collection all feature prominently. The adoption of a maritime spatial plan is only one step in this process. It continues with monitoring and evaluation activities to make sure that the plan is enforced properly. It must also be reviewed, and revised where necessary.

Maritime spatial planning can promote efficient use of maritime space and the development of renewable sources of energy. The fisheries and aquaculture sectors stand to gain as well. Maritime spatial planning can contribute towards the sustainable management of fisheries in EU waters, and provide guidance and reliable data in seeking potential locations for aquaculture activities. It provides a basis for Member States to develop, in conjunction with other instruments such as environment legislation, impact assessments or integrated management plans for specific sea basins or ecosystems.

A growing number of EU Member States have already launched maritime spatial planning measures or will soon be doing so. The Dutch ?Waterplan? is an example of integrated marine spatial planning. Implementation of maritime spatial planning is the responsibility of Member States. However, action at EU level can bring important added value. Coordination between Member States can also lead to less cumbersome procedures and lower administrative costs. Alongside this, balanced long-term management on sea and land will also benefit the ecosystem as a whole.
The roadmap sets out the means for creating added value. The information on existing practices and the set of key principles for maritime spatial planning that it contains should help fuel a debate on maritime spatial planning at EU level.
National decisions have an impact on countries that share a marine region or sub-region. Likewise, many issues transcend national borders. The Commission is looking to encourage Member States to heed cross-border impacts in their national decision-making.
The roadmap marks a first step, by way of a debate, towards the development of a common approach to maritime spatial planning as an important tool for the implementation of the EU’s Integrated Maritime Policy.

To facilitate the debate on maritime spatial planning, the European Commission will organise workshops in 2009 to discuss the options for implementing maritime spatial planning in the EU and the specific key principles set out in the roadmap. The outcome of that debate will serve as a basis for conclusions and recommendations to be issued by the Commission later in 2009.

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