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Ocean Multi-Use Action Plan


The EU wide Ocean Multi-Use Action Plan sets out the various actions and recommendations that can be taken at different levels to promote multi-use in European Seas, including those related to integration and coordination, policy and regulation, maritime spatial planning, dissemination and promotion, funding, capacity building and research. The Action Plan was developed based on a systematic review of MUs experiences and opportunities as well as through engagement with stakeholders at European, sea basin, country and (local/sub-national) case study levels.

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

Questions this practice may help answer

  • What is Multi use of the ocean?
  • What are the drivers/added values, and barriers/impacts of Multi-Uses?
  • What are the recommendations and actions to advance Multi-use of the ocean?
  • Which actors are responsible for advancing particular actions and recommendations?


Implementation Context

The Maritime Spatial Planning Directive requires all EU Member States (MS) to develop Maritime Spatial Plans up to 2021 and thus to strategically consider the best location and conditions for each use. In doing so, MS are invited to seek not only best available data and broad public participation, but also consider opportunities for co-location of maritime activities.

The Ocean Multi-Use Action Plan was developed by the H2020 funded MUSES (Multi-Use in European Seas) project to inspire MU actors including regulators, maritime sectors, policy makers, national and international institutions to proactively take up the specified recommendations and actions to advance MU development in Europe. The Action Plan is therefore a living document and can be adapted to fit particular cases based on unique conditions

Aspects / Objectives

The aim of this Action Plan is to provide orientation and recommendations of what should be done, by whom and where in order to further develop the MU concept at the EU and sea-basin scale. In doing so the Action Plan puts less emphasis on detailed technological requirements, rather focusing on aspects related to stakeholder coordination, research, planning, regulation, legislation, skills development and financing. The Action Plan therefore:

  • Identifies the challenges and opportunities for the development of Multi-Uses of oceans
  • Provides recommendations for future action, considering national, regional and sea basin dimensions.
  • Identify and document good practices for MU within the EU


The development of the Action Plan applied the following methodology and steps:

  1. Development of the analytical framework and common definition of MU, to be employed in all the steps of MUSES research;
  2. Desk research of past and ongoing MU related projects, policy documents and re- ports to provide an overview of MU initiatives and potential at sea basin, national and case study levels for the MU combinations most relevant for the Action Plan. This was followed by:
  • Identification of MU Drivers, Added values, Barriers, and negative Impacts (DABI) for each selected MU combination;
  • Interviews with stakeholders, three workshops and additional desk research to fill identified research gaps. Analysis of stakeholder profiles was conducted in parallel to advise ongoing engagement processes at national and case study level;
  • Analysis of MU potential and evaluation of overall MU effects were conducted as separate, but complementary, processes at national and case study levels;
  • Analysis of Focus Areas: Case studies were further analysed through key questions including addressing MU development potential, boosting the blue maritime economy and improving environmental compatibility.

3. Results of country-based analyses were documented and subsequently analysed at Sea Basin level to provide an overview of the profile and state of development of MU practices across the sea basin, including intra-country and trans-boundary aspects;

4. The final step comprised the integrative analysis of findings at the sea basin, national and case study levels which generated a large number of recommendations and actions. Additional consultations with stakeholders (via interviews and work- shops), as well as their review of the draft action plan, allowed for the finalization of the project’s final output.

Main Outputs / Results

Multi-use (MU), as defined within the MUSES project, is an intentional joint use of re- sources in close geographic proximity. It represents a radical change from the concept of exclusive resource rights to the inclusive sharing of resources by one or more uses. The Ocean Multi-Use Action Plan consists of the following parts:

Part 1 - introduces the MU concept, its policy background and the MUSES methodology.

Part 2 – details the nine MU combinations by commencing with tourism-related MUs which are largely based on operational synergies, before going on to discuss energy-related MUs which often entail a higher level of physical integration. For each combination, the Action Plan illustrates what the MU entails and its current state of development, and summarises its associated positive drivers/added values (benefits) as well as negative barriers/impacts. Part 2 also identifies the key recommendations which need to be considered to advance each MU. The nine MU combinations identified across Europe include:

  • Tourism, fisheries & environmental protection
  • Tourism and aquaculture
  • Tourism, underwater cultural heritage & environmental protection
  • Offshore wind farm and tourism
  • Offshore wind farm and aquaculture
  • Offshore wind farm and fisheries
  • Oil and Gas and Decommissioning – Repurposing
  • Offshore wind and marine renewable energy generation
  • Offshore wave energy and aquaculture

Part 3 - discusses the following cross cutting recommendation and priority actions:

  • Integration & Coordination: MU as a concept is still novel for MU involved actors who must adjust to policy, planning, consenting and management reform in order to advance synergies between maritime uses that are usually managed under different sectoral institutions and owners. Integration and coordination may be achieved by setting up cross-sectoral platforms to guide the development of MU, involving continuous stakeholder engagement, exchange of knowledge and integration of new MU actors.
  • Maritime Spatial Planning: Current MSP processes offer an opportunity for planning authorities, together with stakeholders, to use existing evidence to identify suitable areas and comprehensive policies promoting MU, especially for new joint developments.
  • Policy & Regulation: Clear direction and guidelines from the EU and the responsible directorates are needed for integrating operational issues about MU into EU and national policies. An indication is provided of how Member States can adapt their institutions and regulations for MU implementation to advance MU.
  • Capacity Building: MU actors involved in developing MUs at the project and operational level such as ocean users, investors and businesses have different capacity building needs including technical know-how, training, finance, logistics and public awareness. Responsible sub-national and national authorities should support these actors through comprehensive training, providing financial support and encouraging professional and personal networks
  • Promotion & Dissemination: Promoting good practices and disseminating information about the economic and societal benefits of MUs through existing regional and sea basin forums and networks is necessary to facilitate its replication and encourage investment.
  • Funding: Targeted incentives for MU are needed to advance its implementation, while existing funding schemes directed towards single sectors should be adapted to consider MU. Funding should also support those small scale or local MU solutions that may not have a high contribution to the national GDP, but may render important socio-economic and cultural benefits for the local communities.
  • Research Priorities: Identifying research areas and undertaking pilots in the real environment led by research centres would allow the development of full-scale business models; enhance understanding of the MU value chain and the opportunities that it presents; and generate recommendations for advancing MU.

Graphic representing interactions between MU combination, priority lines and barriers


The Action Plan and recommendations are based on an EU wide research and stakeholder engagement, which also considered sea-basin specificities and hints from the case studies level. The analytical framework and methodology used in the development of the Action Plan can be applied to MSP since it considers similar themes such as integration and coordination, stakeholder participation, capacity building, marine licensing and regulations among others. It can also be applied in other non-European sea basin; however, it is important to carefully consider local conditions and factors when deciding on its use in selecting which multi-use combination can be considered during the MSP process.

Recommended actions provide by the Action Plan are aimed to concretely advance MU implementation. Among these, the role of MSP in promoting a shift from sectoral approach to MU opportunities is highlighted.

Responsible Entity

MUSES Project Partners (Action Plan Lead: SUBMARINER Network)

Costs / Funding Source

The practice was elaborated under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme at a total cost of €1,987,604

Contact person

Lead of Action Plan

Ivana Lukic


E-mail: (il[at]submariner-network[dot]eu)


Coordinator of MUSES project

Bruce Buchanan

Marine Scotland

E-mail: (ms[dot]musesproject[at]gov[dot]scot)