Augmentation of activities in the Baltic Sea has led to increased competition for limited marine space between sectoral interests, such as shipping and maritime transport, extraction of gravel and minerals, offshore energy, ports development, tourism, fisheries and aquaculture in addition to environmental concerns. Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) and Integrated Coastal Management (ICM) are important tools and processes for improved decision making. They help various users to balance sectoral interests that compete for marine space, and contribute to achieving sustainable use of marine areas to the benefit of economic and social development as well as the marine environment.
The establishment and implementation of MSP by applying the ecosystem approach is required by the EU MSP Directive. Other regulatory frameworks and policy initiatives in the Baltic Sea, addressing both MSP and ICM, can be further facilitated by common cross border cooperation for the implementation of MSP in the Baltic Sea according to the regional set of MSP principles adopted by all BSR countries within VASAB and HELCOM.
Several Baltic Sea states have already implemented a regime for MSP at national level and some others are in the process of doing so. In order to have a fully functioning planning system at regional (Baltic Sea) level, it is important that all coastal states have national activities for planning in place, and will work together on key transnational topics.
The Regional Baltic MSP Roadmap 2013-2020, adopted by the HELCOM Ministerial Meeting in 2013 and endorsed by the VASAB Ministerial Conference in 2014, includes the necessary steps to achieve the goal to draw up and apply maritime spatial plans throughout the BSR which are coherent across borders and apply the ecosystem approach.
In addition, the Guidelines for the implementation of ecosystem-based approach in MSP in the Baltic Sea area and Guidelines on transboundary consultations, public participation and co-operation in MSP process have been adopted in 2016.
The joint HELCOM-VASAB Maritime Spatial Planning Working Group, established in 2010, is the regional platform for cooperation between BSR countries to ensure coherent MSP processes in the cross-border context and pro-active implementation of the EU MSP Directive as far as EU countries are concerned.
In 2015 the BSR MSP Data Expert Sub-group was established as an expert group under the joint HELCOM-VASAB MSP Working Group. The aim of the sub-group is to support data, information and evidence availability for MSP processes with regard to cross-border / trans-boundary planning issues.