Marine Spatial Planning (MSP)

Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) will become an increasingly important issue for the shipping sector over the next few years. Maritime professionals need to engage with other users of ocean space from both a sea and shore perspective, and to take part in international, regional and local MSP debate, to ensure that the needs of the sector are taken into full consideration.

MSP discussions are taking place at strategic levels on an international, regional and national basis. However the finer details of where to place a fish farm, off shore wind generation field, environmentally protected zone or shipping lane will ultimately depend on local debate. This debate is likely to be both heated and controversial.

The oceans are a resource that society has learned to depend upon and is increasingly exploiting. It is essential however, for the sake of the planet and the human race that ocean exploitation be sustainable. MSP is a tool that brings together multiple users of the ocean – including shipping, energy, industry, government, conservation and recreation – to make informed and coordinated decisions about how to use marine areas and resources sustainably.

Balancing multiple objectives for the ocean requires accounting for the cumulative impacts of a diverse range of activities. The marine environment provides some benefits to specific sectors that can be easily valued (e.g., shipping, oil and gas, fisheries, recreation, etc.). In contrast, other benefits from oceans reach a broader group of people, often through indirect pathways not as easily valued (e.g., provision of life support systems, climate regulation, protection of coastal communities from storms and sea level rise, biodiversity, and cultural and aesthetic values). Understanding the cumulative pressures resulting from the various uses and how these will evolve in the future is critical, as these pressures will have specific spatial demands, create conflicts among users, and affect the suite of benefits humans can expect from the ocean.

The Nautical Institute and World Ocean Council have published an operational guide to the risks and rewards connected with the shipping industry that should be considered during the MSP process. We invite all users to provide feedback via e-mail or on the LinkedIn debate in order to update and expand it.

E-mail your comments to [email protected].

Alternatively, you can make your comments in real time in the Nautical Institute LinkedIn Group.


As the discussion evolves, further resources and links will be added and members’ views published on this forum.