Skip to main content
European Commission logo

Case Study: Strait of Sicily - Malta


This case study was an exercise of a transboundary MSP process which aimed to illustrate how the challenges to MSP implementation in areas involving different national and international jurisdictions can be addressed. The case study area includes Italian territorial waters, waters under Maltese jurisdiction, and International waters. This work may constitute a solid base for planning at national and regional level, in order to foster proper decisions and to support management and conservation actions of environmental components after a thorough understanding of possible issues and difficulties.

Part II of this case study, covering part of the Strait of Sicily, aims to inform regulatory practices that can support the effective implementation of MSP within the case study area when considering development consent of projects especially beyond the limits of the Territorial Waters. The conclusions reached for Part II present a spotlight on the operational front for MSP that may contribute towards improved understanding of performance at both national and regional level.  

Application in MSP:
Type of Issue:
Type of practice:
Stage of MSP cycle:
Key words:


  • How can the challenges to MSP implementation in areas involving different national and international jurisdictions be addressed?
  • How can regulatory procedures for the implementation of MSP be improved?


The case study in Malta (also covering part of the strait of Sicily) has been developed under the SIMWESTMED project. Outputs are targeted towards MSP practitioners through sharing of best practices and effective transboundary collaboration for MSP. 

The Part II was undertaken solely by the Maltese Planning Authority seeking to improve its administrative procedures in providing consent for development projects at sea, particularly projects beyond the limits of the Territorial Waters.


Case study Part I

  1. Definition of the case study area 

As a first step, the definition of spatial limits for the Strait of Sicily - Malta Case Study have been elaboratedconsidering needs and priorities emerged from the Initial Assessment, as well as existingknowledge on: (i) maritime uses and economic domains; (ii) ecological features; (iii) legaljurisdictions and borders and (iv) trans-boundary issues.

Figure 1. Case Study area boundaries and main features

2. Characterisation of the marine environment 

Following the delimitation of the case study area, the general description of main characteristic of the marine environment was conducted including i) Physical description and ii) ecological description. 

3. Description of uses and activities 

The uses and activities were also described including: fisheries, aquaculture, water extraction, oil & gas research and extraction, cables and pipelines, maritime traffic, tourism and leisure, environmental and marine protection. 

4. Development of vision, trends and objectives  

The stakeholder identification and involvement took place in both countries as to discuss the objectives and collect information of the study area. Dedicated questionnaires and meeting were organised as to identify objectives, priorities, conflicts and synergies in the area, and evaluate data and knowledge gaps and pinpoint to relevant stakeholders to engage to fill in those gaps.

5. Analysis of planning objectives 

The case study conducted the identification and analysis of the multilevel and multisectoral objectives, which reflect the needs and demands of the area and the expected trends. The special focus was on objectives directly related to spatial management, some of them having a spatial content and relevance that were considered and incorporated during the planning phase. Main sectors were defined and recognized as pivotal for the case study area for their relevance in mobilizing interests and in eventually leading existing or potential conflicts in the area, which need to be managed and anticipated.

6. Analysis phase 

The overall analysis phase included the analysis of 

  1. Land sea interactions for each of the sectors using the stepwise approach 
  2. Cumulative impacts conflicts and synergies based on theTools4MSP Geoplatform Cumulative Effects Assessment (CEA) for the analysis of cumulative effects generated by anthropogenic activities on marine environmental components.
  3. Key issues in the area presented per each analysed sector. 

7. Planning phase 

The planning phase presents some of the main synergies and conflicts emerged from the assessment and analysis of the case study. It provides results and recommendations for each country. 

Figure 2. Geospatial results from CEA modelling, representing the expected value of the cumulative effect for each cell.

Case Study Part II 

This part of the case study uses the consent process undertaken in Malta for the development of the Malta – Sicily (Ragusa) power cable, a project that was part-financed through the European Union’s European Energy Programme for Recovery (EEPR), and which came into operation in April 2015. 

This report provides: 

·       an outline of the governance framework for maritime projects before and after the transposition of the MSP Directive; 

·       the key findings of the tasks undertaken in accordance with the Case Study fiche; and 

·       recommendations that can be considered to further facilitate transboundary co-operation for MSP.

The methodology used in the second part of the case study encompasses the following 3 elements:

I. Desk study 

1. Project Case file 

The case file for the development application was retrieved from the Planning Authority’s database. The procedural steps undertaken where noted together with related time frames; issues that were raised during the permitting process; the final permit decision and associated conditions.

2. Regulatory framework

The main regulatory procedures that were in place during the processing of the inter-connector project were identified. These were compared with the existing regulatory procedures in place at the time of writing, to identify whether significant changes were made particularly concerning transboundary projects.

II Meetings

Discussions with the officers who were involved in the consent process were also undertaken to obtain a better understanding of the context within which the project proposal was processed. These discussions also helped to clarify any points that were raised from reviewing the documentation in the case file.

III Workshops 

A half day workshop was organised on the 7thof May 2018 to compare the adopted procedures with current ones concerning the Projects of Common Interest, with a view to define elements that could support transboundary co-operation for development projects at sea. The workshop also served as an awareness raising forum on MSP for the three entities involved (Planning Authority, Environment Resources Authority, Energy and Water Agency) in the new proposed transboundary project of a gas pipeline between Malta and Sicily. A separate report on the outcome of the workshop is included as Annex with this report.


The first part of the case study provides a comprehensive description of the area, and results of the MSP exercise including the implementation of the cumulative impact assessment tool in the transboundary area. The report is rich in maps, visual outputs and recommendations.

The Part II of the SIMWESTMED Case Study 4 also contains the following three annexes: 
·       Report of Workshop
·       Workshop Agenda
·      Participant List.


This methodology could be applied to other sea basins. The results of this study are however specific to the Western Mediterranean.


· CORILA – Consortium for coordination of research activities concerning the Venice lagoon system (Italy)

- CNR-ISMAR National - Research Council, Institute of Marine Science (Italy)

· Planning Authority (Malta)

CONTACT persons

Michelle Borg

Malta Planning Authority (msp[dot]malta[at]mepa[dot]org[dot]mt)