Overview of MSP related maritime uses

Current main uses:

Ammunition storage sites Nature conservation
Aquaculture Offshore renewable energy
Cables and pipelines Ports
Cultural environment and heritage Scientific research
Fisheries Shipping
Military Tourism and Leisure
Mining Underwater Cultural Heritage

Which marine spatial plans exist?

  • At local level (municipalities):

Municipalities have planned the territorial waters: one example (among others) is the joint plan by four municipalities by the West coast of Sweden (Strömstad, Tanum, Sotenäs, Lysekil), 2018

  • At national level:

Legal framework

The Swedish Environmental Code (1998:808) and the Plan and Building Act (2010:900) constitute the legal base for MSP in Sweden.

According to an additional section (from 1 September 2014) in Chapter 4 of the Environmental Code, there shall be shall be three marine spatial plans: Bothnian Bay, Baltic Sea, Western Waters (Skagerrak/Kattegat) covering the area one nautical mile from the baseline seawards (incl. the EEZ). The plans, which shall be adopted by the government, shall be guiding and contribute to sustainable development. The government may, according to the legislation, adopt regulations prohibiting or limiting activities in destined geographical areas.

The Marine Spatial Planning Ordinance (2015:400) regulates the process of the marine spatial planning. It contains provisions on geographical boundaries, the content of the marine spatial plans, the responsibility for preparation, consultation and cooperation in the proposal process, and monitoring and review. According to the Ordinance, SwAM is to develop proposals for marine spatial plans with the help of relevant county administrative boards and with support from national authorities, which will assist with supporting data for the planning. The municipalities, regional planning bodies, regional coordination bodies and county councils that may be affected shall be given the opportunity to participate in the proposal process so that consideration can be given to local and regional conditions and needs. SwAM shall promote cooperation with other countries and the coordination of the Swedish marine spatial plans with those of other countries.

The marine spatial plans shall provide guidance to public authorities and municipalities in the planning and review of claims for the use of the areas covered by the plans. The marine spatial plan shall reflect the state’s overall view of how the marine areas are to be managed, and the plans involve taking a position on how different public interests should be taken into account. The marine spatial plan shall specify areas of national interest in accordance with Chapter 3 of the Environmental Code, i.e., prioritized interests and other public interests of material significance. SwAM shall apply an ecosystem approach in its work. Also according to the Ordinance, industrial policy, social and environmental goals are to be integrated in the marine spatial plans. The main focus of the planning is that marine resources should be used in a way that allows maritime industries to develop and grow while preserving and restoring ecosystems. The marine spatial plans shall contribute to achieving and maintaining a good environmental status (GES) according to the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive.

In parallel, the Plan and Building Act (2010:900) regulates the responsibilities and mandate for the municipalities to plan land and water including the territorial sea, which means that there is a geographical overlap between the national marine spatial plans (the Environmental Code) and the municipal comprehensive plans (Plan and Building Act).

Chapter 1 and 2 of the Plan and Building Act includes basic principles and objectives guiding the spatial municipality planning of the territorial sea and coastal areas. These principles also refer to the application of the Environmental Code (Chapters 3 and 4 referring to basic and spatial provisions concerning land and water management and Chapter 5 concerning environmental quality standards and environmental quality administration).

The Plan and Building Act stipulates that the municipalities shall have a valid comprehensive plan, adopted by the municipality assembly. The plan should be revisited at least once during the terms of office (related to the election period, normally every four years). The plan is guiding, but not legally binding. It should indicate the municipalities’ intentions about the future development. It should also consider issues of national interests. The Plan and Building Act is a framework law emphasizing the need for stakeholder involvement, but is not stipulating what the plan should contain or how it should be developed.

The Plan and Building Act is closely linked to the Environmental Code, which regulates among other things the relation between planning and environment and the need for environment impact assessment (EIA) and strategic environment assessment (SEA).

Another part of the Swedish planning system are areas of national interest for a number of sectors identified by appointed national agencies or areas specifically listed in the Environmental Code. These areas have to be considered in planning and when authorities are granting permission for activities within different sectors. Cultural heritage and values, nature protection, outdoor recreation, shipping, energy production, commercial fisheries are examples of such areas of national interests. Areas of national interest can be pointed out on land as well as in the territorial waters and the EEZ.

The national planning process in itself supports linking offshore planning, coastal area management and sustainable blue economy. The marine spatial plans provide conditions for economic development and improved environmental status, and guides the municipality comprehensive planning. Municipalities have had the opportunity to receive funding for projects aiming at preparing and building capacity for MSP. Some projects included collaboration between several municipalities.


Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management

Joacim Johannesson – Senior Analyst

Last updated: July 2022
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