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Is demonstrating the concept of multi-use too soon for the North Sea? Barriers and opportunities from a stakeholder perspective


Multi-use (MU) has been promoted as a viable approach to the effective planning and mitigation of user-conflicts in the marine realm. Despite several research and pilot projects demonstrating the approach’s feasibility and benefits, commercially viable MU applications remain patchy and limited in numbers. Furthermore, MU is neither systematically applied nor purposively planned for, even in the imminent event of incompatible and conflicting use of marine space. This paper seeks to identify barriers and opportunities for mainstreaming MU based on desktop study and iterative stakeholder consultation. The findings reveal that the MU concept was frequently framed as ‘co-location’ or ‘coexistence’ and aimed towards mitigating conflict among users. Practice was ahead of theory with little attention to synergistic and efficiency aspects. Barriers for MU application include shortcomings in legislation, sectoral thinking, and burdensome administrative procedures. The main opportunity lies in creating a conducive policy environment where MU risks and transaction costs become low and competitive, respectively. Solutions at the sea basin and national level, upon which further MU application can be anchored, are proposed.

Type of practice:
Stage of MSP cycle:
Cross-border / trans-national aspect:
Coherence with other processes:
Key words:


  • What factors hinder the development of the multi-use concept? 
  • How is the multi-use concept implemented in the North Sea?
  • Which issues can the multi-use concept address? 


The research was conducted in cooperation with the European universities and private organisations, and supported by the European Union.


The objectives of the study were: (i) to highlight how multi-use is considered in policy documents, (ii) to analyse the current status of multi-use application, barriers, and opportunities, and (iii) to analyse what lessons can be learned from this analysis and how the multi-use approach can be promoted. 


The data was obtained as a result of a desk study and internet research using the relevant keywords (i.e. "multi-use platforms", "coexistence" and "multi-use projects"). In-depth interviews were conducted with key stakeholders. 


The authors attained seven key lessons from their research on multi-use approach and highlighted its potential.


Although the study was conducted for the North Sea, the methodology applied could also be used for other sea basins.

Responsible Entity: 

University of Dundee, United-Kingdom. 

Funding Source: 

The work was supported by the EU Horizon 2020 – the Framework Program for Research and Innovation (2014-2020) under Grant H2020-BG-2016-2017 (Blue Growth – Demonstrating an Ocean of Opportunities).

Contact person: 

Vinvent Onyango: (V[dot]Onyango[at]dundee[dot]ac[dot]uk)