Maritime strategies often serve as preliminary approaches to a real maritime planning process. They may provide a roadmap for how to organise the MSP process within one country so as to enable the government’s vision and high-level goals for realising the national marine potential. In contrast to the topic MSP visions, they are therefore more process oriented. Maritime strategies help to include the maritime zone into the mainstream planning process– which has so far often been absent from national strategic documents.
Developing a MSP strategy also requires including maritime planning into the existing international regulatory framework, which governs a number of aspects of marine management. This includes EU Directives such as the Marine Strategy Framework Directive and the Water Framework Directive; the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy governing commercial fishing rights and obligations; and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The topic covers two different levels which are highly interlinked with each other: a) developing an overarching national maritime strategy, in which MSP is one among various sets of processes and b) the distinct process of how the maritime spatial plan is concretely developed within the given national governance setting (i.e. inter-ministerial cooperation). On both levels, the strategy may provide a good basis for supporting integrative planning, which is also referred to in the topic Cross-sector integration and the topic Stakeholder involvement.
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
Since the first macro-regional strategy - EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region, was adopted in late 2009, there has been a growing interest towards developing integrated frameworks for countries and regions to address common challenges for a certain geographical area and maximise common assets. There are a number of similarities between the strategies as they are both place-based, relating to EU Member States and non-EU countries located in the same geographical area, they are focusing on common issues, solutions and actions of strategic relevance providing genuine added-value for the entire region, they are both encouraging strategic cooperation and coordination among policies, institutions and funding sources and their implementation requires an integrated approach establishing cross-sectoral cooperation and coordination mechanisms as well as multi-stakeholder dialogue.
In contrast to this, the sea basin strategy typically sets up a structured framework of cooperation in relation to a given geographical area, developed by EU institutions, Member States, their regions and where appropriate, Third Countries which share a sea basin, taking into account the geographic, climatic, economic and political specificities of the sea basin. In terms of the actual strategy, the macro-regional strategy is initiated by Member States or regions and formally requested by the European Council to the European Commission. In contrary, the Sea-basin Strategy is initiated by the European Commission at the request of the regions and/or Member States. Finally, the macro-regional strategy addresses common challenges of a defined geographical area to achieve economic, social and territorial cohesion, and the sea basin strategy seeks to provide a more coherent approach to maritime issues, with increased coordination between different policy areas.
The development of a general strategy for MSP can be seen as an important preparatory stage for MSP development. It can complement the MSP vision if one exists (please also see the topic MSP visions). However, developing a strategy might be treated only as an initial part of a planning process itself. The ultimate goal of the planning process is allocation of the sea space whereas a general strategy rather facilitates placing MSP within the regulatory set-up of a country. A MSP strategy can also outline and help to agree on key goals, ambitions and expectations towards MSP. The development of such a strategy is not a compulsory part of the MSP planning process, as it is not required by the EU Directive establishing a framework for maritime spatial planning, and neither is the elaboration of a strategy suggested by key MSP handbooks such as PlanCoast or UNESCO. Thus the decision on developing a MSP general strategy should be taken on a case-by-case basis, comparing the costs and benefits.
So far there is no EU country that has developed such a specific MSP strategy. However, the existing good practices show the importance of anchoring MSP at the national strategic level. This can be done in several ways. Sea space can be integrated into national spatial strategies as it has been done in case of Poland – National Spatial Development Concept and the Netherlands – National Policy Strategy for Infrastructure and Spatial Planning and theIreland, Portugal or the Västra Götaland region in Sweden. Another option is the development of national MSP scenarios of a cross-sector character as developed by Latvia. Finally, the impact of national policies on the use of the sea space can be evaluated. For instance within the BaltSeaPlan project, such an analysis has been undertaken for each Baltic Sea region country for all relevant policies and strategies, which are currently in force in the given country.
MSP planning processes can generally follow some basic steps to ensure appropriate consideration of important issues. It is important to keep in mind that a “one size fits all” approach that is appropriate for all MSP processes likely does not exist, as it depends on the context one is working in – specifically, existing governance frameworks and actors involved. Regardless, there are several overarching guidelines and real world examples for how an MSP process takes place which can help in formulating a planning process.
The following resources provide guidance on how to conduct an MSP process:
- The PlanCoast Handbook on Integrated Maritime Spatial Planning presents a model for the framework and individual stages of the MSP process. Guidance on each stage is provided in detail and illustrated with case studies.
- The Findings from the BaltSeaPlan project specifies the planning cycle used by project partners the results of the cycle’s application in eight pilot areas in the Baltic Sea.
- The UNESCO-IOC guide for MSP: a Step-by-Step Approach toward Ecosystem-based Management provides suggested steps and tasks for setting up a successful MSP initiative, and lessons learned from MSP practice globally.
- The Methodological handbook on MSP in the Adriatic Sea from the SHAPE project presents a comparative analysis of the above mentioned models, which were used as a basis to define the steps for MSP implementation in the Adriatic Sea.
Although these four reference documents were prepared prior to the adoption of the EU MSP Directive, they are worth consulting as they lay out the basic steps and elements which need to be undertaken when conducting an MSP process. Many of the steps are to be done in an iterative way but they basically provide for an ideal foundation for developing an MSP planning process.
The short film, MSP in a nutshell, also presents the concept and basic elements of MSP in an easy-to-understand, dynamic format.
Elaborating an MSP Planning process will also depend on who, how and with how many resources each step is planned to be undertaken. This is contingent not only on the budget available, but also the specific situation in the geographic context in question with regards to existing governance structures; supporting institutions, available information/knowledge and expertise as well as the respective ‘issues’ at stake. Therefore, each of the referenced approaches includes initial steps to lay the groundwork for an MSP process, including defining roles, responsibilities and authority for the MSP process.
Analysing the existing governance framework may be necessary to support these definitions, and such an analysis conducted as a ‘preliminary’ step for defining a planning process. Methods applicable to such an analysis include the Governance Analysis Framework from the MESMA project or Governance Baselines from the BALTSPACE project.
Finally, the planning process itself should be adaptive, since most initiatives take a “learning by doing” approach which therefore requires that the process reviewed, evaluated and adapted.
For an explanation of how these basic elements have been used in an applied MSP process, please see the summary of the Latvian MSP process.
Integrating MSP into the mainstream planning and programming of development at national, regional or macro-regional level helps to understand the demand for the sea space from various sectors, e.g. related to Blue Growth, conservation of the environment and/or social inclusion. It also allows extending the scope of cross-border interactions on land and sea. Moreover, it may provide a good basis for supporting integrative planning, engagement of stakeholders at initial planning stage as well as taking into account adaptation to climate change. It will also facilitate inclusion of maritime planning into the existing national and international regulatory framework, which governs a number of aspects of marine management and therefore provide basis for forecasting spatial determinations and interactions. This includes EU Directives such as the Marine Strategy Framework Directive and the Water Framework Directive; the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy governing commercial fishing rights and obligations; and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
There are several good practices taking into consideration MSP relevant spatial determinations and interactions at a strategic level. Most of them are dealing with macro-thematic or multi-sectoral strategies, referring to coastal protection, integrated management of the coastal and marine systems, including Blue Growth aspects. Those attempts provide interesting starting points for forecasting spatial determinations and interactions of various kinds: economic, social and environmental. In general forecasting at strategic level of MSP interactions and determinations is related more to exploiting tacit knowledge and engagement of stakeholders (revealing their interests and stakes) than to scientific modelling.
The most general practices related to this topic deal with valorisation of the national maritime space on national or sea-basin wide level, such as the Irish Strategy: Harnessing our Ocean Wealth and the Portuguese National Strategy. Many good practices have an environmental focus putting good environmental status at the forefront, such as the Finnish Strategy, the Dutch National Water Plan or the IUCN Strategy. Some of these strategies already take the form of a “plan” to forecast the spatial conditions of development and to prioritize some uses and ensure cohesion. An example can be the Middle Bank Pilot Plan. Only few efforts of integrating MSP into the mainstream planning and programming put focus on institutional aspects. For instance the Bologna Charter 2012 and the related Joint Action Plan aimed at strengthening the role of the coastal administrations in the context of European policies and initiatives at the Mediterranean scale referring to: coastal protection, integrated management of the coastal and marine systems (including MSP and Blue Growth) and adaptation to climate change. Thus there is no 'one size fits all' model for forecasting and then taking into consideration spatial determinations and interactions at a strategic level. The choice depends on situation of each country, its development/conservation priorities and institutional set-up and experience.
Conservation issues are an important component of MSP. In many EU countries the MSP process is seen as an important contribution to achieving the goals and objectives of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive and the Water Framework Directive. The EU Directive establishing a framework for maritime spatial planning stipulates that due regard should be given to the various pressures in the establishment of maritime spatial plans. Human activities, but also climate change effects, natural hazards and shoreline dynamics such as erosion and accretion, can have severe impacts on marine ecosystems, leading to deterioration of environmental status, loss of biodiversity and degradation of ecosystem services. An MSP strategy could help to integrate these concerns into the planning process.
There are several good practices of tackling MSP relevant environmental concerns at the strategic level. For instance, the third part of the Finnish Marine Strategy 2016 assesses the sufficiency of the current measures to protect the marine environment and contains 29 new measures for achieving and maintaining a good environmental status, i.e. to include marine protected areas conservation objectives in MSPs. The Dutch National Water Plan describes the measures that must be taken to keep the Netherlands safe and habitable for current and future generations and to make the most of the opportunities that water has to offer. Important parts of the National Water Plan include, among others, the North Sea policy and the marine strategy based on the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. The Marine alien invasive species strategy for the MedPAN Network sets out the broad goals and objectives for the MedPAN network and it intends to support and coordinate with other related regional and local partners to assist MPAs for invasive species management.