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Development of tools for integration of information across the coastal margin in the North Sea region


BLAST - Bringing Land and Sea Together (2009-2012): a regional project for better integration of information across the coastal margin in the North Sea region. 17 partners from 7 countries, including governmental organisations, universities and private companies, collaborated on the harmonisation and integration of land and sea data. Funded by the EU through the Interreg IVB North Sea Region Programme. 4 work packages: 1. harmonising land and sea datasets; 2. tools, processes and applications; 3. vessel safety and maritime traffic; 4. climate change.

Application in MSP:
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Questions this practice may help answer

  • What is the current state of geographic data and metadata in the North Sea region?
  • How can data be integrated across land and sea to support coastal planning and management?
  • What tools are available to support harmonisation of maritime information?
  • How can regional maritime traffic monitoring platform support vessel safety and efficiency, and support environmental management?
  • What new common policies and instruments can support planning and ICZM, considering climate change?

Implementation Context

The BLAST project's primary focus was on "Bringing Land and Sea Together", by harmonizing and integrating land and sea data.

In respect to geographic data, it has long been a fundamental problem that data on the landward side are collected and maintained by topographic mapping or cadastral agencies utilised primarily for development, nature conservation etc., while sea data are collected by hydrographic survey services, focusing primarily on marine navigation issues.

BLAST took advantage of the great potential for increased collaboration on these issues among countries at national, regional and local levels. BLAST followed the IHO-guidelines as state of the art and resulted in a regional input to the IHO. The lack of harmonised data across the land-sea margin poses limitations to good planning and integrated coastal zone management, as well as the handling of acute pollution, accidents etc. Therefore, BLAST sought to provide a prototype land/sea interoperable database that was tested by practitioners from muliple sectors.

Incomplete, inconsistent maritime information is a leading factor in marine casualties, environmental damage and ship detainments. The harmonisation of maritime information is a transnational European challenge. To address the issues that arise from unharmonised presentation of maritime information, BLAST developed several platforms for better integrated maritime information. It also demonstrated the value of 3D visualisation in navigational aid displays.

Lack of reliable maritime information will always be a risk in respect to the maritime traffic navigation and monitoring. A harmonised ENC (Electronical Navigational Chart) system and efficient traffic monitoring system are of utmost importance to keep a high level of security for regional maritime traffic. Integration and distribution of maritime data is therefore important. It is also important to widen access to these data so that all parties involved in traffic management can use the data to improve decision making. To this end, the BLAST partners worked to improve the functionalities of relevant databases, it provided input for improvements to the SafeSeaNet reporting system.

The coastal zone is an optimal place to locate renewable energy devices (wind, tidal turbine); at the same time, maritime traffic and vulnerable ecosystems must also be considered in planning at the coastal margin. Furthermore, these interests need to be managed in a context of climate change adaptation. BLAST developed a conceptual model for integrated spatial planning utilising GIS, tools for spatial planning in respect to renewable energy plants, and a web-based decision support system for Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) in a transnational context. Named COINS, the decision sypport system links sea and land areas together to provide planning and management tools that are consistent between sea and land.

The overall aim of the project was to improve Integrated Coastal Zone Management and Planning (ICZM&P) and maritime safety in a broad sense, by improving and contributing to harmonising terrestrial and sea geographical data, by developing planning and visualisation tools, and by improving the safety of maritime navigation - all in the context of climate change.

Aspects / Objectives

  • Addressing the needs of marine spatial planning, environmental protection, socio-economic development, risk management and mitigation, by delivering harmonised land and sea geographic datasets.
  • Exploring practical tools, processes, and applications that the North Sea maritime community might use to implement the coming new generation of standards for marine information systems.
  • Improving vessel safety and efficiency, and enhancing management of the environment through the design and development of a regional maritime traffic monitoring platform for the North Sea region.
  • Developing new common policies and instruments to support coastal zone planning and management (ICZM) in aN emerging climate change perspective.


The project consisted of four work packages:

  1. Land and Sea Model
  2. Navigating the North Sea
  3. Maritime Traffic Harmonisation
  4. Climate Change in the Coastal Zone


These focussed highly on data and tools for data management and use; starting with evaluations of the ‘state of the art’ with regard to data / information and then development of new models and approaches for improved and co-ordinated data management, and finally relating this to the planning policy context of the North Sea.

Main Outputs / Results

Online reports including:

  • State of the Art and Data audit for North Sea Region
  • Merged Solid and Drift Geology of the Forth Estuary
  • BLAST Application Schemas
  • Prototype BLAST Interoperable Land-Sea Reference Base
  • Coastal Surveying to Support High Resolution Mapping 
  • State of the Art: Nautical Information Management
  • Harmonisation of Nautical Information


Outputs and tools developed through this project are relevant to countries in the EU in particular (including Norway), where the same policies and requirements are set out (for environmental protection, spatial planning, data interoperability, etc.) and where co-operation across borders to address issues at a sea basin level is essential. Elements relating to maritime safety may have wider relevance. A substantial amount of information has been reported which will be useful to future planning efforts across partner countries, and the extensive involvement of planning bodies and academic partners around the North Sea in this project will be useful in supporting on-going co-operation at the North Sea scale.

Costs / Funding Source

Interreg IVB North Sea Region Programme. Direct costs of its elaboration are unknown.


The Norwegian Hydrographic Service (project lead partner)