Maritime Spatial Planning Directive - Directive 2014/89/EU establishing a framework for maritime spatial planning provides a legal basis for national and transboundary maritime spatial planning initiatives, EU Member States being required to set up maritime spatial plans as soons as possible, at the latest by the 31st of March 2021.

The main purpose of maritime spatial planning is to promote sustainable development and to identify the utilisation of maritime space for different sea uses as well as to manage spatial uses and conflicts in marine areas. Maritime spatial planning also aims at identifying and encouraging multi-purpose uses, in accordance with the relevant national policies and legislation. In order to achieve that purpose, Member States need at least to ensure that the planning process or processes result in a comprehensive planning identifying the different uses of maritime space and taking into consideration long-term changes due to climate change.

The Directive lays down obligations to establish a maritime planning process, resulting in a maritime spatial plan or plans; such a planning process should take into account land-sea interactions and promote cooperation among Member States. Without prejudice to the existing Union acquis in the areas of energy, transport, fisheries and the environment, this Directive should not impose any other new obligations, notably in relation to the concrete choices of the Member States about how to pursue the sectoral policies in those areas, but should rather aim to contribute to those policies through the planning process.
According to Article 1 MSP is aimed at “promoting the sustainable growth of maritime economies, the sustainable development of marine areas and the sustainable use of marine resources”. The Directive provides a set of common minimum requirements for the development of maritime spatial plans. The obligations set in Article 6 for Member States are mainly procedural and affect mainly the plan-making processes. The Maritime Spatial Plans developed must be reviewed at least every ten years, according to the same article.


The Directive applies to marine waters of Member States, without prejudice to other Union legislation. It does not apply to coastal waters or parts falling under a Member State’s town and country planning. This Directive does not apply to activities the sole purpose of which is defence or national security. It shall not apply to town and country planning.


"Integrated Maritime Policy" (IMP) is defined as a Union policy whose aim is to foster coordinated and coherent decision - making to maximise the sustainable development, economic growth and social cohesion of Member States, and notably the coastal, insular and outermost regions in the Union, as well as maritime sectors, through coherent maritime-related policies and relevant international cooperation.
"Maritime spatial planning" is defined as a process by which the relevant Member State’s authorities analyse and organise human activities in marine areas to achieve ecological, economic and social objectives.
"Marine region" means the marine region referred to in Article 4 of Directive 2008/56/EC.
"Marine waters" means the waters, the seabed and subsoil as defined in point (1)(a) of Article 3 of Directive 2008/56/EC and coastal waters as defined in point 7 of Article 2 of Directive 2000/60/EC and their seabed and their subsoil.

Objectives and minimum requirements for MSP

According to Article 4 of the MSP Directive, Member States are required to establish and implement MSP, taking account of land-sea interactions and the particularities of their marine regions as well as the impacts of existing and future activities and uses and their impact on the environment. The Directive allows Member States to build on existing or in-work policies, regulations or other mechanisms, conforming in the process with the requirements of the Directive.

The objectives of MSP are contained in Article 5, which states that Member States should consider the economic, social and environmental aspects to support sustainable development and growth in the maritime sectors, applying an ecosystem-based approach, and promoting the coexistence of activities and uses in the maritime space. Member States are to decide how different objectives are reflected and weighted in their maritime spatial plan/plans.
The minimum requirements for MSP are contained in Article 6 which reiterates the need to take into account land-sea interactions and environmental, economic, social and safety aspects, promoting coherence between MSP and the resulting plan(s) and other processes, such as integrated coastal management or equivalent formal or informal practices. Member States should ensure the involvement of stakeholders, organise the use of the best available data, ensure trans-boundary cooperation between Member States and promote cooperation with third countries.
Regarding land-sea interactions, Member States may use other formal or informal processes, such as integrated coastal management. The outcome shall be reflected by Member States in their maritime spatial plans.

Setting up MSP

In developing and implementing a Maritime Spatial Plan, under Article 8(1), Member States should identify the spatial and temporal distribution of relevant existing and future activities and uses in their marine waters. Possible activities, uses and interests may include: aquaculture areas; fishing areas; installations or infrastructures for exploration, exploitation and extraction of oil, of gas and other energy resources, of minerals and aggregates, and for the production of energy from renewable sources; maritime transport routes and traffic flows; military training areas; nature and species conservation sites and protected areas; raw material extraction areas; scientific research; submarine cable and pipeline routes; tourism; and underwater cultural heritage.

Public participation in MSP

Member States insure the means for public participation by informing all interested parties and by consulting the relevant stakeholders and authorities, and the public concerned, from the early stages in the development of maritime spatial plans. Once the plans are finalized, the relevant stakeholders and authorities, and also the public concerned should have acces to them.

Data for MSP

Article 10 covers the matter of data use, including, but without being limitted to, environmental, social and economic data as well as physical data about marine waters and how to share information necessary for MSP. For this purpose, Member States are encouraged to make use of existing instruments and tools, as those operating under the Integrated Maritime Policy and/or other EU relevant policies, including Directive 2007/2/EC establishing a Infrastructure for Spatial (INSPIRE Directive).

Cooperation between Member States and with third countries

Articles 11 and 12 cover the cooperation among Member States and with third countries. Member States should cooperate for ensuring coherent and coordinated maritime spatial plans for the marine region concerned, taking into account, in particular, issues of a transnational nature. Where needed and possible, Member States are encouraged to cooperate with third countries on their actions with regard to maritime spatial planning in accordance with international law and conventions.


According to articles 13 and 14, regarding the implementation of the Directive, each Member State must designate the competent authority/authorities competent for the implementation of the Directive, which are to be communicated to the European Commission. Copies of any maritime spatial plans developed must also be sent to the Commission.