International spatial planning

The importance of European cooperation in maritime spatial planning

EU directive

The EU Directive for maritime spatial planning (2014/89/EU) obliges all EU coastal states, for the first time, to establish maritime spatial planning plans by 2021. The member states must ensure in their planning procedures and management processes, that the national plans are coordinated with each other and, in particular, take transnational issues into account. Cooperation should take place through existing regional institutional cooperation structures, the network of competent authorities or within the framework of marine strategies.

Maritime spatial planning assists the implementation of the European Blue Growth Strategy through the sustainable development of marine and coastal economies. By applying the ecosystem approach, the Marine Spatial Planning Directive aims at economic development through sustainable use of marine and coastal resources. It is in line with EU legislation on climate protection and expansion targets for renewable energies, the achievement or preservation of a good environmental status of the seas and the completion of a trans-European transport network (shipping lines).

Cross-border maritime spatial planning practice

In the North Sea region, with the exception of Denmark, all neighbouring countries have already prepared and approved maritime spatial plans - with varying degrees of detail, focus or legal obligation. In the Baltic Sea region, Lithuania, in addition to Germany, has so far established a valid spatial planning plan which also covers the maritime areas. Other countries are at different stages of the planning process.

Due to the lack of competence of the EU for European spatial planning, the member states must take appropriate measures for cross-border maritime spatial planning. They are supported in this by the expert group on maritime spatial planning of all member states, which regularly exchanges information, and, furthermore, by the so-called MSP platform on the Internet.

With the Helsinki Commission Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (HELCOM) and the Oslo-Paris Convention (OSPAR), there are, in addition to the competent national authorities, intergovernmental structures that pursue objectives for the entire Baltic Sea and North Sea that require cross-border coordination. HELCOM, an intergovernmental institution for the protection of the marine environment in the Baltic Sea region, aims to further expand cross-sectoral cooperation in areas such as maritime transport, maritime spatial planning and integrated coastal zone management by 2020 and to further promote the implementation of the ecosystem approach.

In the North Sea, OSPAR is currently in charge of international cooperation for marine environmental protection in the North East Atlantic. It sees maritime spatial planning as an instrument for managing human activities.

The BSH has also been actively involved for many years in various transnational working groups on maritime spatial planning issues, such as the EU Member States Expert Group on MSP and the HELCOM-VASAB MSP Working Group in the Baltic Sea Region.

During the preparation of the maritime spatial plans, BSH consulted with Germany's immediate neighbours, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and Poland, on the draft plans in 2008. In the course of these international consultations, the BSH presented the draft maritime spatial plan and gave the neighbouring countries the opportunity to provide comments and suggestions.

Additional Information


Dr. Kai Trümpler
+49 40 3190-6100

Projects on this topic

The BSH has been a partner in European projects on maritime spatial planning since 2009. The projects in both maritime regions are aiming at better coordination and harmonization of maritime planning processes. The main topics are energy, shipping and the environment.

Interreg-Projekt Baltic LINes
(Duration January 2016 to February 2019)

Interreg-Projekt NorthSEE
(Duration January 2016 to July 2019)

DG Mare Projekt PanBaltic SCOPE
(Duration January 2018 to December 2019)

DG Mare Projekt SEANSE
(Laufzeit Februar 2018 bis Februar 2020)

(Duration 2009 to 2012)

(Duration 2012 to 2014)

Baltic SCOPE
(Duration 2015 to 2017)