Sea-areas are important contributors to human economic, social and cultural well-being, as well as being of particular importance with regards to biodiversity and ecosystems. This myriad of beneficial factors makes the use of the seas important and of interest to countries, which in turn results in an increase in the use of sea-areas in basically all corners of the world; and Europe is no different. This rise in the use of the seas by so many different states and actors has given way to potential conflicts regarding the manner of use of the seas, as well as competition for available maritime space shared by those states.

Due to the potential for conflict over its use, the adoption and implementation of Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP), a tool that enables countries to maximise resources in maritime activities, becomes necessary. MSP further provides a framework for managing the human uses of the sea; this management ensures that the seas’ development potential for crucial activities is capitalised on, as well deciding between maritime activities in order to guarantee that the use of maritime resources is sustainable.

The European Commission (EC) recognises the value of the seas and the importance of a tool, such as MSP, and as such intends to support the development of MSP processes throughout the EU. Given this stance, the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (EASME), on behalf of the EC, awarded AETS with the project, “Assistance mechanism for the implementation of maritime spatial planning”. Under the scope of this contract, AETS will be responsible for offering support services, technical advice and study work for the implementation of the MSP. These activities will be focused on supporting the Member States in six sea basins (Atlantic, West Mediterranean, East Mediterranean, Black Sea, Baltic Sea and North Sea) to advance the implementation of the MSP directive, which requires that all have an established national plan by 2021. The project involves a wide variety of tasks, including provision of MSP expertise in each sea basin, a helpdesk service, event attendance, study work production, running of a knowledge hub on MSP website, and organisation of events and related communication activities. The technical and logistical support provided will aim to train and guide Member States on the subject of MSP, ensuring that Member States boast the required knowledge and are able to correctly implement their MSP, all while being aware of the EU financial instruments available for MSP projects.

The project is scheduled to begin this year still and has an expected duration of 18 months (with a possible extension to 36 months).