North Sea Plan
The EU MSP Directive, adopted in July 2014 (and in effect as per September 2014), asks MS to set up coherent and coordinated ecosystem based Maritime Spatial Plans (MSP-Plans) by 2021. All countries in the North Sea Region have already MSPs in place or have launched MSP processes. However, neither has a shared sea-basin wide analysis of the North Sea future use and Blue Growth potentials been carried out nor do mechanisms for transnational coordination for MSP exists in the North Sea. On top of that the new EU Directive specifically asks to take on board land-sea interactions, a topic that has so far largely been overlooked by various North Sea countries.
The overall ambition of the project is to lead the path towards a better understanding and continuous coordination of the various national MSP processes within the North Sea Region and thus to improve knowledge of planners (and stakeholders) on transboundary issues to be taken into account within their MSP processes.
By involving the relevant MSP authorities within each country, it is safeguarded that project results are of relevance and may be applicable to national MSP processes. To this end the project is expected to provide for a good and realistic set of relevant information and recommendations.
The project itself shall enhance cooperation among the MSP actors within the North Sea Region and develop the appropriate formats for such kind of cooperation to be effective. These will then be taken as the basis for recommendations on how such cooperation may be transferred into a more permanent mechanism to co-ordinate transnational MSP issues in the North Sea, profiting from existing examples (e.g. in the Baltic).
Such more formal successor steps may then be taken on board by a future DG MARE promoted transnational MSP project.
The North Sea MSP project to be developed should focus on transnational aspects of MSP.
- Shipping, ocean energy development as well as nature protection areas (Natura 2000/MPAs) are uses, which are of transboundary nature.
- MSP requirements such as ecosystem approach, MSP data & information and stakeholder involvement are cross-cutting issues, which shall be an integral part of all three “use topics”.
The project will draw on the experience of the following initiatives:
- For shipping, the project may build on results of the ACCSEAS project.
- For renewable energy the project may make use of the work of the North Sea Grid initiative / Windspeed.eu. as well as the former INTERREG VB NSR project MAPmep.
- For MPAs current work of OSPAR as well as the outcomes of the N2000 REFIT programme shall be taken into account.
- The “Diaquarium” developed by the NL shall be further developed throughout the project and shall be used as a tool to stimulate stakeholder involvement as well as scenario development
- The project shall also take into account knowledge gained within the cross-border DG MARE project “Baltic Scope”.
- A sister project under the name “Baltic LINes” also concentrates on shipping routes and energy corridors in the Baltic Sea Region and would allow for a transregional harmonisation.
As most North Sea Region countries already have implemented MSPs, project partners should compare national MSPs (implemented or in the development stage) and analyse, if they are transnationally coherent with regard to shipping lanes, energy corridors and MPAs. In case of “mismatches”, recommendations should be worked out on how to achieve transnational coherence in the revision stage.
The project aims to establish for the first time for the North Sea a platform for planners to tackle transboundary planning problems, exchange best practises and understand each other’s problems.
As part of this process, an overview shall be undertaken on national and transnational data/information available; how this is presented (formats) and how this has been used when planning for shipping routes, energy corridors and MPAs. The project should aim for a bottom-up approach towards the EU Atlas of the Seas (EMODnet). As a minimum the project shall provide for a common stocktaking format (map) for maritime data, which can be used used by all countries (i.e. water depth, existing installations, AIS data, etc.). Furthermore it shall explore, which information sets are of crucial importance for transboundary decisions and achieving transboundary coherence of MSPs. Project partners shall explore relevant information with regard to future scenarios and developments, land-sea interaction as well as impact analysis.
The MSP directive calls for the application of the ecosystem approach, including SEA and EIA procedures. Although environmental aspects are generally considered when developing planning solutions, the approaches differ widely among countries. The project shall foster an exchange of practices and experiences with the ecosystem approach with regard to planning for shipping routes, energy corridors and MPAs. This shall result in recommendations on minimum criteria on how this is to be understood and applied in the North Sea context.
The project may test on how to carry out North sea wide impact assessments for the above mentioned transnational issues (i.e. energy, shipping, MPAs). The project might work out how the North Sea countries can use the OSPAR interim quality status report on the marine environment in 2017 for their MSP processes leading up to coherent MSPs in 2021. The project may also include a scenario study towards combined energy farms at sea (e.g. wind/wave and tidal or wind & seaweed for biomass).
Furthermore, stakeholders will be involved especially in view of transnational issues. Taking lessons learnt from Baltic Sea Region projects on this matter into account, the project shall develop and implement multi-level and multi-sector consultations with institutional (sectoral ministries & agencies), different government levels (regions), transnational organisations as well as sector stakeholders. Focus shall be placed on transnational issues and gaining information on future developments. Vice versa the project could identify best possible interactions of (groups) of stakeholders with planning authorities. Innovative methods may be made use of within the stakeholder consultations (i.e. scenarios / disaquarium / MSP game North Sea edition (www.mspchallenge.info), GISplatforms), especially in view of possible future planning solutions.
Lessons to be learned from the cooperation methods within the project itself, data / information exchange, consultations in relation to transboundary issues, etc. shall result in recommendations on how the cooperation process shall be continued beyond the projects’ lifetime.