The increasing use of seas and coasts for economic activities, the ‘blue economy,’ leads to growing and competing demands for maritime space.
Allocation of space at sea helps to avoid conflicts between different uses (e.g. wind and wave energy, fishing, oil and gas exploitation, cables and pipelines, shipping, tourism, defence, environmental protection), which also often cross national boundaries.
Maritime spatial planning (MSP) is a relatively new approach to overall planning of the use of seas and coastal areas. Benefits of MSP include efficient use of maritime space, prevention of conflicts, faster decision-making, reduced costs and a better investment climate. A few EU Member States (MS) already have an MSP process.
In March 2013, the European Commission proposed a Directive that would oblige MS to make maritime spatial plans and coordinate them with other MS. The planning process and the content of the plans would remain the responsibility of the MS. The European Parliament has supported initiatives on MSP since as early as 2007.
While the proposal is supported by the offshore wind industry because it provides more certainty for investments, environmentalists welcome the application of the ecosystem approach, coordination between countries, and public consultation.