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SIMAtlantic : Maritime Spatial Planning

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SIMAtlantic: start of a new European project on Maritime Spatial Planning in the “wide” EU -Atlantic area



SIMAtlantic project started on 1st of July 2019. It seeks to support the Maritime Spatial Planning Directive (Directive 2014/89/EU) implementation in the Member States and to strengthen the links between those working on Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) in five Atlantic European Member States: France, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom (Northern Ireland and England).

The project will last 2 years. The consortium of partners representing academia, scientific public bodies and marine planning authorities will focus on concrete actions and cross-cutting themes of relevance for national MSP authorities.

The Maritime Spatial Planning Directive is a European framework developed as a tool to answer to the challenges of the increasing uses of the sea. Traditional sectors such as fishing and shipping are now competing with new uses such as marine renewable energies and marine protection areas. This increasing human activity leads to conflicts between uses and pressures on the environment. The sectoral management of marine space is no longer possible in this new context that requires coherent actions across marine regions. Maritime Spatial Planning is a holistic approach to planning when and where human uses take place at sea, in order to ensure these are as efficient, safe and sustainable as possible. This process takes into account all maritime activities and their environmental impacts as well as cross-sectoral interactions and issues of a transnational nature. The Member States are requested to prepare marine plans following this approach, to be submitted to the European Commission in March 2021. They have to review their plans at least every ten years.

To support them in this task, and to encourage transnational cooperation, the Direction General Maritime Affairs and Fisheries of the European Commission (EU/DG Mare) co-funds through the European Maritime and Fisheries program (EMFF) some cross-border projects on MSP, involving countries sharing a European sea basin.

For France, Shom, Cerema and AFB are participating as partners in SIMAtlantic to support the Sea Basin Strategic Documents (the French marine plans) preparation.

The cooperation among Member States aims to take into account the potential impacts of the national marine plans on the uses and activities and on the environment beyond their limits of sovereignty and jurisdiction. It is facing the challenges of sharing spatial data in a meaningful manner and in order to produce common maps



 Lack of shared spatial datasets, heterogeneity in their geometry, in their symbology, in their definition, absence of metadata record, of identified baseline data producer, of interoperability of the harvesting systems are examples of the barriers met when tackling with the challenges of improving the capacity to produce common maps about MSP issues, using data sources of the neighbouring countries.


In SIMAtlantic project, Shom will focus its activities on exploring and demonstrating the cross-border MSP data sharing requirements of the MSP Directive implementation in the Atlantic, through INSPIRE web services (WFS, WMS, …).


A marine geoportal which Spatial Data Infrastructure was set up in previous MSP cross-border projects will be used. The data gathering is based on harvesting process to limit the management and monitoring  and the duplication of the efforts. They remain the responsibility of the data producers and initial distributors. In addition, this approach guarantees that the data user access to the most up-to-date dataset. This is a quality criteria related to the use of the best available data.


This work will pursue and complete the overview on available spatial data for MSP established in previous projects SIMCelt, SIMWESTMED, SIMNORAT and SEANSE, for all the French sea basins, and in cooperation with all the neighbouring countries of the mainland of France.



Shom is participating to EU/DG Mare cross border projects on maritime spatial planning since France is concerned in 2016

The 1st round of 4 cross-border projects covers the whole French waters. It has led to develop cross-border knowledge sharing on the MSP Directive requirements, to identify transboundary issues, and to build capacities on MSP implementation.


As a producer of baseline data and expert for the description and prediction of the physical environment in support to the action of the State at sea and maritime policies, Data uses and sharing is a key matter of concern for Shom in each of these projects. The MSP Directive implementation requires that the Member States organise the use and sharing of data to establish the marine plans (art 10). In addition, the data organisation and sharing can contribute to the transboundary cooperation required on issues of a transnational nature (art11). It is the first founding act of the Ecosystem Based Approach( EBA) in transnational area. Thus, it is relevant to take into account the transboundary spatial data sharing needs while designing the national organisation of data for MSP.

Shom has looked at the organisation of MSP data sharing in the countries of the projects and established inventories of existing geoportals in the countries and of shared datasets.

Results are available in the data needs and gaps analysis reports of SIMCelt, SIMNORAT and SIMWESTMED and SEANSE. Links for reusing the datasets inventories in GIS softwares or geoportals thanks to INSPIRE web services are provided at the end of the page (See resources)

The feasibility to harvest these datasets was also tested by publishing them on the geoportal of the projects.

In addition, the data management guidance documents  of SIMCelt, SIMNORAT and SIMWESTMED provide technical modus operandi to harvest datasets and metadata records using Geonetwork and Geoserver softwares. It is particularly important to transfer this knowledge developed during the projects, as these solutions are opened softwares, but were not well documented up to now on their use to harvest data and information. On the basis of the documentation produced within the project, it is easy for Member States to set up geoportals using these opened softwares in order to harvest the MSP datasets of the neighbouring countries, as done in the projects. In the absence of European portal dedicated to MSP data so far, this is a solution to foster transboundary cooperation.

These documents provide also the action plan developed during the project to propose cooperation activities to the Partners in the project. This action plan can also be more widely used as a roadmap. Results of the technical activities experimented are pointed out on the data portals for SIMNORAT and SIMWESTMED.


Shom also focuses on tools for MSP through the improvement of the marine spatial data infrastructure of the projects, but also to develop decision aid making solutions. DESEASION platform is co-developed by Shom and IMT Atlantique and the Lab-STICC CNRS laboratory. This decision-aid making tool aims to support Shom in the definition of a national program of hydrographic surveys. As such, DESEASION has to manage spatial data and a multiplicity of criteria. It is required also that it can take into account stakeholders wills and display the corresponding scenarios. DESEASION platform capability to manage cumulative impacts issues was assessed through a desktop case study related to the Var County area, France.



Main conclusions and recommendations from the first round of projects


A number of barriers to the development of a common transboundary MSP knowledge based on the best available data is linked to gaps in sharing spatial data and interoperability of spatial data and dissemination platforms. It is needed to pursue the efforts on

-          developing the datasets sharing culture at national level and among neigbouring countries

-          identifying and organising the production and organisation and sharing of national baseline spatial data, and especially those which impacts need to be assessed with regards of the transnational issues

-          developing their dissemination in web services according to INSPIRE Directive and accompanied by metadata records in national language, plus in the neighbouring countries languages (or at least in English language)

-          developing the visibility of the baseline data producers on the data portal gathering it, by displaying their logo

-          develop harmonisation of datasets through common specifications and standards or on the fly harmonisation of the web services

-          stabilising the url addresses of the web services, or/and develop systems to monitor them

-          developing the requirement that new EU projects deliver their datasets in web services

-          establishing a long term EU platform able to gather datasets thanks to harvesting process, to host the Member States MSP plans zones (EMODNet?).


The EU MSP cross-border projects led to a multipticity of deliverables (see Ressources) and outputs including

-          overviews of MSP relevant information related to the countries and on more focus areas

-          a number of interviews and meetings where stakeholder views are collected to feed the reasoning

-          to guidelines and good practices to be shared at a national and transnational level with marine stakeholders, scientific as well as planners, administrations and authorities.


These project permit a lot of progression internally in the countries and regarding transboundary cooperation. It leads to establish and develop new dialogues and to connect the technical or scientific actors, the stakeholders, the administrations of the countries of a same sea basin, and the administrations within the countries, including the representative of Regions. It contributes to a better understanding of Maritime Spatial Planning mechanisms, to share knowledge and to build capacities, which remains of importance in the sea basins concerning France while the MSP implementation progress are heterogeneous depending on the sea basins. The projects also permit to address topics which have never been addressed before.

The involvement of some countries in several EU-DG Mare cross-border projects like France, Spain and Italy in SIMCelt, SIMNORAT, SIMWESTMED, SUPREME is useful for them to develop a global vision with their neighbours in all the sea basins concerned.

The first round of projects has led to constitute a common knowledge and background and has created cooperation among countries on MSP. Work and dialogue need to continue beyond these projects, in particular through common tools.



The projects identified in addition common views, results and topics of interest among sea basins through SIMCelt, SIMNORAT, SIMWESTMED, SUPREME, Ocean Metiss, NorthSEE project and Pan Baltic Scope:

-          the transfer of experience and the transnational sharing of methods for evaluation, governance

-          stakeholder engagement

-          methods for mapping

-          the lack of data and the lack of interoperability of data

-          the comparison of tools for evaluation of cumulative impacts, specifically in transnational area

-          the interest for planning at the scale of the Sea basin

-          EU Commission internal cooperation to share and built tools for coastal and maritime EU governance

-          MSP Platform, EMODNET, EOOS, cooperation trans-program; INTEREG, LIFE, H2020, EMFF

-          better link between the founding programs and the macro-regional strategies

The project representatives underline that the projects are too short to have long lasting effect, and a

continuous support should be provided to build up capacity in the sea-basin. To support the Member States MSP implementation, there is not only the EMFF to be looked at. Strategies (Regional Sea Convention etc) can play a role in maintaining a strategic view. Within this framework compound of strategies and initiatives, the formal track of the MSP Directive will lead to the deposit of the plans by each State in March 2021.

Because they need to be assisted in the process, these projects are very important in order to establish a kind of constant flow of results and processes allowing Member States to capitalize on the EU MSP community.

They also help all the countries to look beyond borders in their planning.

Sea-basin strategies also help a lot to contribute and support the countries in identifying what their needs are.

Capacity building has also to be funded and supported in particular with consideration to the evolution of the plans. EU funded mechanisms must recognize that domestic MSP priorities will evolve and that the plans have to be revised.

The land-sea interaction remains also a crucial element to consider and related to that, there is the challenge of involving citizens. Until now the stakeholder engagement mechanisms mainly focus on sectoral actors and are not yet filtered down to the citizen level. This remains a challenge in terms of understanding, communication and perception as citizen need in addition to be talked about the importance of maritime spatial planning regarding their own well-being.




Uses developments in the Channel and North Sea are ramping up fast and the offshore wind park construction is one of the main drivers. The SEANSE project brings together a number of countries part of them are well advanced in establishing their marine plans or have already produced them. The project aims to contribute to a coherent approach to Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEA) in the Channel and North Sea with a focus on the interactions between the offshore energy parks developments and the environment. 

SEANSE Data Portal Demonstrator: it is operated by Shom to assess data interoperability, to share transboundary MSP knowledge and to explore the gaps and solutions to solve them. This Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) is based on Web Services: Data is not stored on local servers, but comes directly from the producers’ SDI through a harvesting process.

Access the SEANSE data portal: seanse.mspdata.eu.




A Workshop organized in Antwerp, Belgium, on MSP challenges of the North Sea


As part of the SEANSE project, the Shom organised, together with the project partner CPRM (Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions), a Knowledge Sharing Workshop in Antwerp on 22 May 2019.

The MSP implementation process in France, Belgium and the Netherlands were presented and discussed, as well as Land-sea interactions and smart grids in the North Sea.


The Shom moderated the session Data Sharing at marine basin for integrating an Ecosystem-Based Approach in MSP.

On data, the CE/DG Mare indicated that it would be of great interest to share EU Member States marine plans through spatial data INSPIRE compliants formats. EMODnet Secretariat presented a spatial data infrastructure fulfilling the requirements to host the marine plans.

The workshop also particularly highlihgted the interaction of national planning on transnational areas.


Minutes and the presentations of the workshop are available here.



SIMNORAT and SIMWESTMED are twin projects structured similarly related respectively to the North European Atlantic and the Western Mediterranean area.

Throughout the projects’ two-year duration, the Shom, acting as coordinator and the project partners have carried out a wide range of actions to explore and consider all the MSP Directive requirements in particular regarding the multiplicity of criteria of the Ecosystem Based Approach. It includes an initial assessment developing a general overview; a State-of-play analysing the national MSP processes in order to assist transboundary cooperation; support for national MSP implementation through conceptual methodology for transboundary MSP, identifying spatial demands and future trends for maritime sectors and marine conservation, data and information requirements, tools and methods, improving stakeholder engagement as well as case studies.


The results and outcomes of the activities of all the project partners are openly available on the European MSP Platform to view or download as PDF files. The Signposting document produced at the end of each of the projects might be a useful place to start as it provides an overview with summaries of the components and results.


-          SIMWESTMED page on the EU MSP Platform

-          SIMWESTMED Signposting document (pdf)

-          SIMNORAT page on the EU MSP Platform

-          SIMNORAT Signposting document (pdf)



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About SIMCelt

SIMCelt was the first cross-border project on MSP France was involved in.

The outputs of the project are available here.

Since then, Shom has worked on different projects covering all of France’s sea basins and collaborated with partners from all its neighboring countries working on MSP. This time around, as the drafting of national maritime spatial plans is approaching its final stage, the Shom and the other SIMAtlantic partners are looking forward to work with the SIMCelt stakeholders to link and enlarge the MSP cooperation in the new project SIMAtlantic.





SEANSE datasets inventories

SIMWESTMED datasets inventories


SIMNORAT datasets inventories


SIMCELT datasets inventories


The data needs and gaps analysis reports identify the main geoportals and sources available in the countries. As an intermediate document, it provides also barriers and assets to make the data availability progress during the projects.

SIMCelt, dec. 2016 http://www.simcelt.eu/wp-content/uploads/D4_D5_Data-Gaps-Transboundary.pdf

SIMNORAT and SIMWESTMED, dec 2017 https://www.msp-platform.eu/practices/analysis-data-needs-and-existing-gaps

SEANSE, dec 2018 (data needs analysis and its annexes, dec 2018): https://northseaportal.eu/downloads/


The Data management guidance documents: technical modus operandi to harvest datasets and metadata records using Geonetwork and Geoserver softwares, action plan developed during the project, some actions of the action plan can also be more widely used, as a road map:


SIMCelt (march 2018) http://www.simcelt.eu/wp-content/uploads/D7_Data-Management.pdf

SIMNORAT, SIMWESTMED (jan2019, dec 2018) https://www.msp-platform.eu/practices/data-management-guidance-document


Display on the data portals the results of technical activities experimented:


and https://services.mspdata.eu/SIMWESTMED/static/dashboard/action_plan.html

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