Marine Planning – The European Dimension: The MSP Directive

Rhona Fairgrieve
European Commission


The entry into force of the EU’s Maritime Spatial Planning Directive in September 2014 requires all relevant European Member States to develop Maritime Spatial Plans by 31 March 2021.  It establishes the framework for Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) aimed at promoting the sustainable growth of maritime economies, the sustainable development of marine areas and the sustainable use of marine resources.  

The Directive sets out the fundamental elements that must be reflected in Maritime Spatial Plans, ranging from the application of an ecosystem-based approach to spatial planning of marine resources to the promotion of the coexistence of relevant uses and activities.  The intention was to set out a planning framework within which all human activities at sea could fit. The development of the Directive acknowledged that some EU Member States already had considerable experience in the assessment and planning of marine resources. 

EU Member States have until September 2016 to transpose the requirements of the Directive into their own national legislation.  This, in itself, may be a challenge for some States where identification of a Competent Authority and coordination between different marine or maritime policy aspects may require new ways of working.  Beyond the transposition period, it will be important to ensure that MSP builds on the legislation and processes already in place, e.g. the implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, to produce coherent results.

In an environment as dynamic and varied as Europe’s marine areas, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to the opportunities afforded by traditional and emerging maritime-based activities and the quest for their sustainable and long-term utilisation of marine resources. This presentation will review the process that delivered the MSP Directive, will consider some of the different approaches indicated by Member States in implementing its requirements and will offer some thoughts on how MSP may deliver across the wider EU policy spectrum.

Commission’s MSP site:

Final text of the Directive: