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Cross-border cooperation in Maritime Spatial Planning

European Commission DG MARE


This study was designed to assist the European Commission and Member States in the implementation of the MSP Directive through the identification of good practices of MSP, with a particular focus on cross-border cooperation. The study also elaborates recommendations that can support the promotion and exchange of MSP at the international level, relevant to the implementation of the EC International Ocean Governance Agenda.

Application in MSP:
Type of Issue:
Type of practice:
Stage of MSP cycle:
Cross-border / trans-national aspect:
Key words:

Questions this practice may help answer

  • What is the status of MSP processes worldwide?
  • What lessons can be learned from existing cross border MSP processes?
  • What good practices can support cross border cooperation for MSP?
  • How can MSP be promoted internationally?


Implementation Context

Over the last decade, an increasing number of countries have begun to design and implement maritime spatial plans at various scales – from local initiatives to transnational efforts. This study presents good cross-border cooperation practices, in support of implementing the EU MSP Directive. The directive not only supports more efficient sustainable development of marine and coastal resources, but also strengthens cross-border cooperation and therefore improves international ocean governance. The study draws from a number of international case studies and it should help elaborate recommendations that can support the international promotion and exchange of MSP, relevant to the implementation of the EC International Ocean Governance Agenda.

Aspects / Objectives

The objectives of the study include:

            · Objective 1: Compile a detailed inventory of MSP implementation outside the EU (referred to as the ‘Global MSP inventory’) that identifies common practice in MSP processes, including in cross-border cooperation.

            · Objective 2: Explore four case studies of MSP implementation to identify lessons learned and good practices in relation to the requirements of the MSP Directive, with a particular focus on cross-border cooperation.

            · Objective 3: Formulate recommendations on the format, scope and added-value of international exchange of information concerning MSP.

            · Objective 4: Support the organisation and execution of the 2nd International MSP Conference, in collaboration with DG MARE and IOC/UNESCO (15 – 17 March 2017, Paris),


Lessons learned and good practice in cross-border MSP, as well as recommendations for international promotion and exchange of MSP, were derived from analyses of the Global MSP Inventory and four case studies of cross-border MSP processes: the Rhode Island Ocean Special Area Management Plan (SAMP); The Commission for Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR); The Coral Triangle Initiative for Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security (CTI- CFF); and Xiamen Marine Functional Zoning (MFZ) .

The Global MSP Inventory was designed to provide an up-to-date characterisation of MSP Processes outside of Europe, and enable a simple analysis of characteristics of MSP processes. The four project case studies were described and assessed according to a standardised analytical framework. Information was collected through a literature search as well as key informant interviews.

The inventory and case study data were then analysed according to the following steps:

  1. Comparison of lessons learned across the Project four case studies, based on findings presented in the four Case Study Summary Reports (see Supporting Material to this report)
  2. Identification of MSP practices that have been more critical to the success of each case study based on their contexts, i.e. lessons learned, compared with common practices identified through the Global MSP Inventory
  3. Review of the MSP Directive scope, objectives, requirements and suggestions to Member States
  4. Extraction of MSP good practices in support of cross-border cooperation relevant to the implementation for the MSP Directive based on the requirements introduced by the Directive

Based on existing literature, the review of MSP practices through the Global MSP Inventory, and the examination of the four Project case studies, specific elements of MSP that would benefit from discussion and sharing in international fora were identified. Recommendations on international exchange in MSP were further developed based on expert knowledge and experience from Project partners.

See Appendix 1 of the report for a detailed description of the project methodology.

Project components, interconnections and reference to deliverables and in the Final report. Source: Cross-border cooperation in Maritime Spatial Planning, DG MARE

Main Outputs / Results

Four main deliverables resulted from the study:

  • The review of existing guidance and MSP processes, and compilation of a detailed inventory of MSP implementation outside the EU – the Global MSP Inventory. 
  • An in-depth comparative analysis of four case studies of MSP implementation, including literature review, site visits and key informant interviews, that identifies lessons learned in MSP, and good practices in support of cross-border cooperation. Detailed case study summary reports are available for each of the four case studies. The „lessons learned“ and good practices derived from the case studies and inventory are described in more detail in separate practice descriptions.
  • The formulation of recommendations on the international exchange of MSP, including recommendations on the application of MSP in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ).
  • The presentation of cross-border preliminary findings at the 2nd International MSP Conference (March 2017, Paris).


The lessons learned and good practices from the project’s four case studies can be applied in diverse contexts to support implementation of the MSP Directive, with a particular emphasis on cross-border cooperation.

Responsible Entity

The report was prepared for the European Commission DG Mare by the following entities:

Coordinator: NIRAS

Project Partners:
 QED, SAERI, TNC, UNEP-WCMC, URI CRC, WMU, Xiamen University

Costs / Funding Source


Contact person

Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries; 
Directorate A — Maritime Policy and Blue Economy; 
Unit A.2 — Blue Economy Sectors, Aquaculture and Maritime Spatial Planning; Contact: Valentia Mabilia
, E-mail: (valentina[dot]mabilia[at]ec[dot]europa[dot]eu), 
European Commission 
B-1049 Brussels