Skip to main content
European Commission logo
sek_shipping_rgb Created with Sketch. sek_nonsector_rgb Created with Sketch.

Defence and other uses

Last update

Download documents


Story 1: How Poland analysed defence and security needs in its “Study of Conditions of Spatial Development of Polish Sea areas
Poland is currently developing its first maritime spatial plan which is expected to be completed in 2019. A study (“Study of Conditions”) was carried out preceding the planning process with the intention of gathering all the necessary planning information. In this study, national defence, security and safety were given a prominent place.

Story 2: East Inshore and Offshore Plans, England (2014): Setting out general policies and using the licensing process for specific decisions
The UK Ministry of Defence is a consultee for the licensing of marine developments, to ensure offshore activities and developments do not adversely affect strategic defence interests or inhibit the use of designated Danger and Exercise Areas.

Story 3: How Lithuania resolved an old problem and achieved a good outcome for three sectors
During the planning process in Lithuania, it became apparent that a newly established biosphere area overlapped with a military training area. There was a third overlap in the same space with an old dumping site for dredge spoil which had been there for a long time.

Additional information is provided on the National Defence and Security FAQ page.

Conflicting elements

Military use of the sea, or the use of marine and coastal areas for purposes of security and defence, is a reality in all coastal countries. The spatial needs and interests of national defence and security at sea are complex, so potential conflicts may not be immediately obvious.

  • Maritime activities could get in the way of military infrastructure. For example, there have been concerns that wind turbines could interfere with defence radar or military underwater cables. There may also be negative impacts on optical, radio and hydroacoustic observation and the possibilities of veiling.
  • Maritime activities can impede the proper functioning of marine infrastructure that is considered indispensable for national safety and security, such as pipelines, transmission cables, data cables, etc.
  • Maritime activities can interfere with naval training areas, artillery ranges or airbases, in other words, areas that need to be free of obstacles.

Acute spatial conflicts usually arise when defence interests restrict other permanent uses. Coexistence is often possible with more fleeting uses that do not impede military activities in principle, such as tourism, fishing, or even shipping; in these cases, measures such as temporary closures can often be used.

Drivers of conflict

Policy-wise, issues of national defence usually take precedence over all other activities. This does not mean that compromise is impossible, but it does mean that military needs cannot be negotiated to the same degree as others. In some coastal areas, the navy is an important employer, adding socio-economic “weight” to the political weight of the sector.

Very often, the military cannot be explicit about its spatial needs. Reasons of security may also prevent a fixed military training zone from being designated, or from making such a zone explicit on a map.

The military is a “hidden” yet powerful stakeholder as a result of its high national priority. It can prevent other activities and impose non-negotiable restrictions on other sea users. Due to this power difference, it is all the more important for planners to act as mediators.