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Multi-Use of the Sea as a Sustainable Development Instrument in Five EU Sea Basins



This paper examines the concept of maritime multi-use as a territorial/SPATIAL governance instrument for the enhancement of sustainable development in five EU sea basins. Multi-use (MU) is expected to enhance the productivity of blue economy sectors, as well as deliver additional socio-economic benefits related to the environmental and social dimensions of sustainable development. The paper provides a definition of maritime multi-use and identifies the multi-uses with the highest potential in EU sea basins. In each sea basin, multi-use plays a different role as concerns sustainable development. For the Eastern Baltic Sea, the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea, the MU focus should remain on the environmental pillar of sustainable development. In the North Sea, North Atlantic and Western Baltic Sea, addressing social sustainability seems a key precondition for success of MU in enhancement of sustainable spatial development at sea. Moreover, it has been suggested to introduce MU key global strategies such as SDGs or Macroregional strategies and action plans and to supplement maritime spatial planning with sectoral incentives and educational efforts as key vehicles supporting MU. The paper concludes by identifying aspects which, in order to inform maritime spatial planning and maritime governance regarding a more conscious application of the aforementioned concept, require further investigation. Key tasks are related to: more profound evaluation of performance of policies supporting MUs, researching the impact of MU on societal goals and on the MU costs and benefits, including external ones, and finally identifying the impact of MU on the development of various sectors and regions on land.

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

Questions this practice may help answer:

  • What are the most frequent combinations of activities in MU?
  • How can MU support the sustainable development of activities at sea?
  • What are the key factors enabling effective MU?  

Implementation Context:

Marine sea space is becoming a scarce resource, requiring careful management, and can no longer be perceived as infinite and abundant. In this context, the multi-use (MU) concept, as well as co-location or co-existence have recently attracted the attention of researchers and decision-makers.

Aspects / Objectives:

This paper aims to propose options and patterns for multi-use territorialisation in line with the characteristics of EU sea basins and to identify the research gaps that need to be overcome regarding MU.


The data and information used in this paper were collected in the years 2017–2018, as part of the Horizon 2020 project MUSES. An analysis of MU at national and sea basin level as well as desk study research on MU relevant policies were led. Existing MU and associated uses were identified. Stakeholder workshops were organised in the framework of the MUSES project.

Main Outputs / Results:

This paper highlights the conditions necessary to turn MU into an effective instrument supporting the sustainable development of marine space, and identifies relevant research topics.


This practice is transferable to any MU project

Responsible Entity:

The Institute of Oceanology of the Polish Academy of Sciences

Costs / Funding Source:

The paper presents the research outcomes of the MUSES project, which has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement no. 727451. The parts relating to MUSES' findings on maritime sustainable development were prepared with the support of the project “Spatio-economic multiplier in maritime economy” financed by the Polish National Science Centre

Contact person:

Joanna Przedrzymirska: (jprzedrzymirska[at]iopan[dot]pl)