Skip to main content
European Commission logo

Utility of Collaborative GIS for Maritime Spatial Planning: Design and Evaluation of Baltic Explorer

Transaction in GIS


Maritime spatial planning (MSP) needs tools to facilitate discussions and manage spatial data in collaborative workshops that involve actors with various backgrounds and expertise. However, the reported use of spatial tools in real- world MSP is sparse. A better understanding is needed of how geo-graphic information systems (GIS) can effectively support collaboration in MSP. We studied the utility of GIS tools for collaborative MSP in five steps: first, identifying shortcomings in available GIS for supporting collaborative MSP; second, defining requirements for an effective collaborative GIS (CGIS) for MSP; third, designing and developing a prototype CGIS, Baltic Explorer; fourth, demonstrating the system; and fifth, evaluating the system. In a real- world MSP workshop, we demonstrated that the functionalities of Baltic Explorer can support and facilitate discussions in collaborative work. We also found that more research is needed about the use of spatial data in collaborative MSP and integration of model- based geospatial analysis into CGIS.

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

Questions this practice may help answer:

  • How can geographic information systems (GIS) effectively support collaboration in MSP?
  • What are the key functions required for efficient collaborative GIS tools for MSP?
  • How can stakeholders' engagement in spatially explicit discussions be improved?

Implementation Context:

Workshop organised by the Pan Baltic Scope Project.

Aspects / Objectives:

The purpose of the study is to contribute to the development of more efficient collaborative GIS tools to support MSP.


Learning from the limitations of current GIS tools for MSP through a literature review, with a focus on stakeholders’ collaboration, the authors set a list of requirements and specifications and developed their own collaborative GIS tool (Baltic Explorer). The latter was tested in a real-world MSP stakeholder workshop in Umeå, Sweden, with feedback from users, as well as in a fictional user test conducted in a controlled environment.

Main Outputs / Results:

The authors highlight the need to develop more collaborative GIS tools for MSP to facilitate discussions between stakeholders. By developing and testing their own version of such a tool, they focus on the key functions that need to be further improved to harness its potential for MSP.


The approach developed in this study can be of use in any MSP context. 

Responsible Entity:

Department of Geoinformatics and Cartography,
Finnish Geospatial Research Institute, Masala, Finland.

Costs / Funding Source:

Svenska Forskningsrådet Formas;

Latvian Ministry of Education and Science;

BONUS The joint Baltic Sea research and development programme;


Academy of Finland;

Forschungszentrum Jülich.

Contact person:

Christian Koski,
Department of Geoinformatics and Cartography,
Finnish Geospatial Research Institute, Masala, Finland.