General Introduction to the North Sea
The North Sea region is one of the most heavily used seas in Europe and globally with extensive shipping, fishing, aggregate extraction and energy production. The North Sea basin comprises EU Member States (Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands) as well as non-EU countries (Norway and the United Kingdom). In this sea basin are located 3 of the world’s largest ports - Rotterdam (the Netherlands), Antwerp (Belgium) and Hamburg (Germany).The following key sectors are considered the most important in the North Sea: offshore wind, offshore oil & gas, aquaculture, shipping, shipbuilding, cruise tourism and coastal protection.
Shipping and the associated port activities are the main sector in the North Sea basin in terms of Gross Value Added, which results in intensive maritime traffic within the sea basin. The high volume of maritime activities taking place in the North Sea basin, requires the installation of offshore infrastructure, including pipelines and cables, which occupies the space on the sea, at the bottom, and in the water column.
The North Sea is situated in temperate latitudes with a climate that is strongly influenced by the inflow of oceanic water from the Atlantic Ocean and by the large-scale westerly air circulation which frequently contains low pressure systems. The North Sea is relatively shallow, with an average depth of 90m and the seabed is mainly composed of mud, sand and gravel. Biological systems in the North Sea are rich and complex with significant areas of importance for birds, fish and marine mammals. Approximately 230 species of fish are known to inhabit the area, with important spawning grounds for a number of species and prey for birds and marine mammals. Some 10 million seabirds are present at most times of the year with extensive migration of protected species across the region. Marine mammals are present over large parts of the North Sea (OSPAR, 2015).
Countries and MSP in the North Sea
Belgium: MSP Adopted
Germany: MSP Adopted
The Netherlands: MSP Adopted
Denmark: MSP Adopted
National initiatives include developing arrangements for maritime spatial planning across jurisdictional boundaries, implementation of MSPs as well as monitoring and evaluation. The North Sea countries cooperate, carry out informal discussions, and initiate the rising number of MSP-related initiative in the North Sea. Across the sea-basin, the MSP Collaboration Group in the North Sea has been established that aims at collective cross-basin MSP effort in the North Sea by incorporation of OSPAR 2030 strategy and operation programmes linked to MSP. This collaboration group serves as a discussion platform on cross-border MSP-related initiative and projects in the North Sea. There is international co-operation on a regional basis; the Wadden Sea Forum provides a mechanism for Dutch-German-Danish trilateral co-operation, including on Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM), and provides a basis for co-ordination with regard to MSP. Within the framework of the Trilateral Wadden Sea Cooperation, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands jointly take on the responsibility of preserving the Wadden Sea ecosystem for the benefit of present and future generations.
SEANSEE was a project carried out by the North Sea Authorities, co-funded by the European Commission, focusing on the issue of cross-border maritime spatial planning. The project developed a decision making tool during the setup of MSPs, with the involvement of stakeholders and implementation of cross-border projects in specific areas of the North Sea. The general objective of the SEANSE project was to develop a coherent (logical and well-organised) approach to Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEAs) in support of the development and effective implementation of MSPs.
The eMSP NBSR project aims to enable Maritime Spatial Planners of managing authorities and policymakers from the North and Baltic Sea Regions to reflect on current MSP practices, to learn effectively from each other, and to collectively identify problems and solutions. This provides new knowledge and information to national governments and the European Commission on implementation, development and research actions, and managerial approaches that can or should be taken to deal with future challenges and opportunities afforded by the sea in a coherent way and with involvement of industry, academia and non-governmental organisations.
The North Sea Commission is a politically-led cooperation platform for regions around the North Sea, bringing together the Presidents and delegates appointed by the Regional Authorities immediately below the level of Government which border the North Sea. Through dialogue and formal partnerships, they aim to promote common interests, especially in relation to European Union institutions, national governments and other organizations dealing with issues that are relevant to the North Sea. The focus for the North Sea Commission's work is the North Sea Region 2020 strategy document. It defines the following focus areas under the priority 'Managing Maritime Space'; maritime spatial planning, exploitation of marine resources and the North Sea Maritime Stakeholder Forum.
The North Seas Energy Cooperation (NSEC) supports and facilitates the development of the offshore grid development and the large renewable energy potential in the region. Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the European Commission are currently members of the NSEC. The work programme for 2020-2023 and the new structure put a particular emphasis on developing concrete cross-border offshore wind and grid projects (hybrid projects), with the potential to reduce costs and space of offshore developments.
North Sea Marine Cluster
NSMC is a not-for-profit collaboration between business, scientific and academic expertise for the benefit of the regional marine sector, developing new avenues for marine science and service, and fostering collaboration across the marine-related sectors in the North Sea.
A web-based forum for sharing information relevant to maritime affairs across Member States.
OSPAR monitors maritime developments as these relate to the implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive that OSPAR is responsible for. The work areas of OSPAR are MSP-related, including the topics of human activities, biological diversity & ecosystems, offshore industry.
The North Sea Commission is one of six Geographical Commissions, which comprise the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions of Europe (CPMR). The Commission promotes the specific interests of North Sea regions towards EU institutions and fosters regional cooperation to address common challenges.
Shipping and Ports
Offshore Renewable Energy
Scientific Research and Data
North West Shelf Operational Oceanographic System (NOOS)
North Sea Hydrographic Commission
European Marine Observation and Data Network (EMODnet) Central Portal North Sea Checkpoint
International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) Data Centre