MSP for Blue Growth

Main issues

Both traditional as well as emerging maritime sectors are continuously driven by innovation and show substantial potential to create new jobs and added value. Blue Growth is the long term strategy to support sustainable growth in the marine and maritime sectors as a whole. Seas and oceans are drivers for the European economy and have great potential for innovation and growth. It is the maritime contribution to achieving the goals of the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.

MSP can facilitate the development of these Blue Growth sectors in a context of increasing competition for space and limited ecosystem resources. MSPs are also seen as a tool to increase the stability, transparency and predictability of the investment climate where they are implemented. But it is also a tool to identify and give the suitable room to new and changing spatial uses. In that sense MSP functions as a tool to foster regional development by showing the economic potential of the sea.

The MSP process as such is an important driver to induce a more systematic approach towards generating and using marine knowledge as well as facilitating stakeholder communication and cross-sector integration by not only reducing conflicts but also creating synergies.

The extending of spatial planning (as used on land, also referred to as physical planning) to the marine domain – this is, in short, the meaning of what has been translated as maritime spatial planning - represents a key instrument for Blue Growth and can contribute to the aim of giving a boost to economic growth on the basis of a new maritime paradigm founded in innovation, competitiveness and knowledge.  

Nonetheless, the relation between MSP and Blue Growth is multi-faceted and not yet fully explored. In this context, the 2018 study on MSP for Blue Growth gives information on how MSP can assist Member States to foster the potential for sustainable Blue Growth. It provides practical guidance to Member States and draws conclusions that were reinforced by the Conference MSP for Blue Growth, organised in October 2017 in the context of the MSP Assistance Mechanism.

Please note that this section of the EU MSP Platform website is not currently being updated with new information. However, the resources throughout our website remain relevant to our mission of sharing knowledge and experiences on MSP in the EU.

Frequently Asked Questions

The potential sectoral uses are determined by various factors which are both related to external drivers (such as climate change adaptation, ageing population, technology changes) as well as the internal response capacity and the competitive position of Europe’s industry overall.

Typically important uses of maritime space are maritime transportation and ports, fisheries and indirectly tourism. Offshore oil and gas plays a role within the North Sea as well as the Adriatic; whereas the rapid expansion of offshore wind is one of the most important drivers for MSP within Northern Europe with important spatial consequences – thus requiring careful long-term planning. Cables and pipelines are therefore also growing in importance; while other uses such as aquaculture and seabed mining also have relevant spatial implications.

The original Blue Growth Study contains important information – notably on synergies and tensions, as fully described under chapter 5 of the study report. Important maritime economic activities, which already have a critical mass (e.g. short-sea shipping, cruising, offshore drilling, offshore wind and coastal tourism), can have substantial knock-on effects for future growth and development of other activities. For example, several economic activities make use of similar inputs (e.g. shipbuilding as input to cruise shipping, short-sea shipping, coastal protection, offshore wind, offshore oil and gas, and marine mineral mining) or share the same infrastructure, notably ports. 

As part of the MSP for Blue Growth Study, nine Sector Fiches suggest how to best consider the expected development in terms of spatial requirements of each maritime sector during the MSP processes. The nine sectors covered are the key maritime activities listed above. The fiches present key facts of each maritime use, including its gross value added, presence across sea basins, temporal aspects, life cycle of installations, land-sea interactions and relevant spatial needs. On top of this, each fiche provides and overview on the sector’s future trends as affected by policy, industry and financial developments. Based on the identified trends, the projections are presented on the requirements of maritime space for every maritime activity. The interactions between sectors are also analysed and potential for spatial conflict or synergies are identified.

All together, the report points to an extraordinary diversity of spatial implications of each sector given their spatial characteristics, planning time horizons and implications of technological change. Obviously, rapidly developing and emerging sectors might have more important implications for MSP, compared to established activities that have already consolidated their spatial use. Finally, the study offers a set of concrete recommendations on how both planners as well as sectors may inform each other to create MSP solutions, unlocking Blue Growth potentials in a sustainable manner.

Such assessments are increasingly taking place as part of sea-basin specific maritime spatial planning. To support of these endeavours, the MSP Visions Handbook provides guidance to developing a vision with the aim of having an agreed-upon perspective on the maritime area, its specificities and what the area might look like in the long run if the maritime spatial plan is implemented. Numerous examples of past and ongoing transnational projects have developed sea-basin wide visions, for example BaltSeaPlan and the BlueMed Initiative. Other examples of efforts at sea-basin assessments of futures uses are presented below.

The ‘Study on Blue Maritime Policy and the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region’ aims to identify the potential for Blue Growth in the Baltic Member States at a sea-basin level and to provide recommendations for its development in the context of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR) and the next programming period.

The main outcome of the MEDTRENDS project illustrates and maps the main scenarios of maritime economic activities for the EU Mediterranean countries in the next 20 years.  The analysis was implemented at the Mediterranean regional or sub-regional (Adriatic Sea) scales and more specifically at the level of the eight EU Mediterranean countries.

Decisions about the use of maritime space are – as on land – are often political. The term trade-off involves losing one quality or aspect of something in return for gaining another quality or aspect. It is now more generally used for situations where a choice needs to be made between two or more things that cannot be had at the same time. Trade-off covers a wider array of phenomena, such as conflicting land and sea-uses, a negative correlation between spatial occurrences, incompatibilities and excludability.

In parallel to this, tensions can exist between different maritime economic activities directly, but also indirectly, for example if one activity puts pressure on the marine environment – thus compromising the potential of another activity strongly relying on marine environment quality. Most tensions are spatial in their nature. Hence a strong link exists with MSP to address these tensions. MSP processes offer a framework for managing potential conflicts and fostering synergies between, but also within, sectors. Tensions can be minimised through the involvement of stakeholders from the early stages of planning.

In order to plan ahead and anticipate potential conflicts between different uses, MSP authorities can develop a vision for MSP in their sea basin. A maritime vision or preferred scenario provides and an agreed-upon perspective and can establish a common understanding of the future of a maritime area. The MSP Visions Handbook provides guidance to developing such a vision.

Another element to reduce conflict and minimise potential trade-offs, is trans-national and cross-border planning.

Finally, if trade-offs need to be made, there are various ways of comparing the weight and importance of such future space uses, such as multi-criteria analysis or cost-benefit analysis. For example, the BaltSeaPlan has produced a practice on the Cost-Benefit Analysis for Balancing sea use interests within the Latvian MSP process. Section 4 of this FAQ section provides further information on how the costs and benefits of maritime uses can be analysed through cross-sector integration, while also providing a list of useful tools and concrete examples of projects.

Early cross-sectoral stakeholder engagement and discussions allow for identification of possible trade-offs, synergies and opportunities of multi-use of space and resourcess for compatible uses. The MUSES project is an initiative funded by Horizon 2020 that is exploring where, and under which conditions, the sustainable Multi-Use of ocean space and resources can be developed to ensure that Blue Growth is taking place in a sustainable and space efficient manner. To bring the Multi-Use of Oceans from concept to life, joint actions need to be taken on different governance levels, by actors from the maritime business community, planning, policy and regulatory agencies, financing bodies - including EU programmes - and research institutions. 

Handbook for Visions in MSP

The 'Handbook for developing Visions in MSP' was developed as one of the three tasks of the MSP Platform Technical Study ‘MSP as a tool to support a sustainable Blue Economy’ carried out under the European MSP Platform. The purpose of the Handbook is to assist planners in developing a maritime vision or a strategy, as well as assisting those who wish to prepare the terms of reference for facilitating a vision process.

Handbook on MSP Indicators Development

The Handbook presents a step-by-step approach to developing MSP indicators. In particular, the Handbook aims to provide the maritime spatial planning community with suggestions on the use of spatial indicators that could support the consideration of Blue Growth in MSP processes.