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Discussing and Analyzing “Maritime Cohesion” in MSP, to Achieve Sustainability in the Marine Realm.


Whilst the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14 promotes the conservation and sustainable use of the seas, oceans and marine resources for sustainable development, decisions in ecosystem-based Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) follow annoying and costly trade-offs and this may negatively impact its acceptance. To address conflicts and cumulative impacts and favor, as much as possible, interfering of marine activities, positive coordination and win-win options, it is necessary to develop integrated and cohesive planning approaches and new management tools. In this article, a conceptual framework of “maritime cohesion” is being developed mostly applicable to peopled and crowded seas and a set of relevant indicators to assess it, is proposed. It is based on the triple-model of interdependent components such as “maritime spatial efficiency”, “maritime spatial quality” and “maritime spatial identity”, taking into account the “territorial cohesion” equivalent, promoted by the Cohesion Policy. Then, in order to broadly analyze the “spatial efficiency” component, the “multi-use” concept and management tools, recently given particular emphasis by EU Blue Growth Strategy, are examined thoroughly, using the relevant literature. This article highlights constructive use of “maritime cohesion” with the multi-use MSP paradigm as key part of “maritime cohesion” narrative and posits that its huge and extensive potential can stimulate dynamic, collaborative, cohesive and assemblage thinking in the MSP process and be the “spearhead” to balance economic, social, environmental and cultural aspirations in maritime planning to achieve sustainability in the marine realm.

Type of practice:
Stage of MSP cycle:
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Questions this practice may help answer:

  • What are the integrated and cohesive planning approaches addressing conflicts and cumulative impacts in MSP?


The study was conducted by researchers from the Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences (Athens, Greece) and Society for Urban Ecology (Salzburg, Austria).


The article aims to propose a conceptual framework of “maritime cohesion” and a set of relevant indicators to assess it.


The article is structured around the following steps. Firstly, identifying insights from visionary and methodological programmes and projects focusing on the integration and coherence of MSP between countries of the same sea-basin. Secondly, this article focuses on the “spatial efficiency” component and studies insights from realised co-location in different sea-basins and national marine waters, through a literature review that also includes projects and policy reports. For the concept of “territorial cohesion” there is a huge body of literature that was partly examined,  papers were selected depending on their potential contribution to the formation of the proposed concept and term of “maritime cohesion” and relevant assessment indicators.


A general conclusion is that intersecting marine operational boundaries do not only generate eventual conflicts but can also pave the way towards potential cooperation, complementarities with consecutive added value, joint public and private benefits, surplus distribution effects and finally a cohesive co-existence perspective. A first recommendation of this research is that a cohesive thinking should be explicitly initiated in MSP national regulations and macro-regional strategies. A second recommendation is that a set of assessment indicators should follow the conceptual framework, facilitating the operation of the idea. Another recommendation resulting from this research is that states and regions sharing the common sea should be encouraged to undertake studies at macro-regional (e.g., EUSAIR), national and regional levels to define multi-use potentialities, as a step towards updating MSP strategies and refining planning towards a regionally specific, operational blue growth strategy.


The authors believe that similarly, and in a complementary use to “territorial cohesion”, “maritime cohesion” can be decisive for planning both the economy and the environment (natural marine ecosystems as well as socio-cultural systems) and can shape an integrated maritime spatial planning paradigm including economic, social, environmental and cultural aspirations, promoting both economic efficiency, social and spatial equity.

Costs / Funding Source:

This research received no external funding.

Contact person:

Stella Sofia Kyvelou: (kyvelou[at]panteion[dot]gr)