Germany (North/Baltic Seas)

Baltic Sea & North Sea


In 2007, the German Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency (BSH) drafted multiple-use marine spatial plans (and associated environmental reports) for the German exclusive economic zones in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. The EEZ of Germany covers about 33,100 km2, about 28,600 km2 in the North Sea and about 4,500 km2 in the Baltic Sea.

MSP in Germany is based on the Federal Land Use Planning Act that was extended to the exclusive economic zone. Spatial plans for the territorial sea (up to 12 nmi) are developed by the German Länder (Federal States). The German plans are regulatory and enforceable. The federal plan for the North Sea went into effect in September 2009; the federal plan for the Baltic Sea in December 2009.

MSP in Germany was stimulated by the effect of newly developed maps displaying numerous proposals for large-scale offshore wind energy farms. This flood of applications was in itself triggered by a guaranteed subsidy for electricity generated by wind power. Various project proposals were overlapping in space and caused concerns for the effects on the marine environment and on other important users (e.g., shipping).

In the German MSP process, special effort was made to maintain the competitiveness of the shipping industry. The main navigation routes that comprised the traffic separation schemes (TSS) as well as frequently travelled routes formed the basic framework for overall MSP. Other uses in the EEZ were alligned with this framework. By minimizing barriers to shipping, this procedure contributed toward increasing the safety and efficiency of navigation.

MSP in Germany is based on a set of guidelines, including:

- Securing and strengthening marine traffic;
- Strengthening economic capacity by orderly spatial development and optimization of the use of space;
- Promoting offshore wind energy use in accordance with the Federal Government’s sustainability strategy;
- Long-term safeguarding and use of special characteristics and potential in the EEZ through reversibility of uses, economic use of space, and priority for marine-specific uses; and
- Securing natural resources by avoiding disruptions to and pollution of the marine environment.

In Germany, the federal states (German Länder) are responsible for the implementation of Natura 2000 on land and in the coastal waters, i.e., within the 12 nm zone. In the exclusive economic zone (EEZ), which extends seaward from the coastal waters, the federal government, represented by the Federal Ministry of Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) and the Federal Nature Conservation Agency (BfN), is responsible.

When the national legislation that authorized MSP in federal waters went into effect, the German Agency for Nature Conservation developed a plan to identify areas of special importance for nature conservation. For the identification, designation and nomination of the Natura 2000 sites in the German EEZ, German marine research institutions carried out comprehensive research projects from within the framework of a special research programme supported by the BfN and the BMU. The main focus of the research was on the collection of data regarding the distribution and the population sizes of protected species. Furthermore, the location and demarcation of the habitat types, e.g., “sandbanks” and “reefs”, with their typical sediment structures and biological communities, were important for the assessment of the ecological significance of individual marine areas. These areas were eventually incorporated into the federal plans for the North Sea and Baltic Sea. As of 2009, about 45% of Germany’s marine waters have been designated as Natura 2000 sites.

Germany uses three types of zones for the implementation of its spatial plans. These include “priority areas” where one use (for example, shipping, pipelines, etc.) is granted priority over all other spatially significant uses; “reservation areas” where one use is given special consideration in a comparative evaluation with other spatially significant planning tasks, measures and projects; and “marine protected areas” where measures are applicable for the reduction of impacts (e.g., through pollution) on the marine environment.

Existing national and international monitoring programs in the North Sea will be used to monitor the significant impacts of implementation of the maritime spatial plan.


Key elements of Marine Spatial Planning in the Baltic Sea & North Sea


Authority: Federal Spatial Planning Act of 1997 and 2004 amendments establishing spatial plans for the EEZ (Raumordnungsgesetz or ROG)
Lead Planning Agency: GermanFederal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency or Bundesamt für Seeschifffahrt und Hydrographie (BSH)
Financing: Not known
Size of Planning Area: Total area is 33,100 km2 (about 28,600 km2 in the North Sea and about 4,500 km2 in the Baltic Sea); federal planning begins at 12 nm boundary of territorial sea
Time required to complete the plan: Three years
Drivers of MSP: Space conflicts between projected wind farms, marine transport, and nature conservation
Stakeholder participation: Mostly consultations with other federal agencies and public review of plan documents
Sectors included in planning: Marine transport (shipping), pipelines and cables,
Relation to coastal management: The German Lander have jurisdiction out to 12 nm and incorporate coastal issues in their spatial plans
Relation to marine protected area management: The German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation identified Natura sites before the MSP planning process began (about 45% of the German EEZ has been designated as protected areas); these sites were included in the plans for the North and Baltic seas of Germany
Plan approval: The federal plan for the North Sea went into effect in September 2009; the federal plan for the Baltic Sea in December 2009.
Legal Status of Plan: Regulatory and enforceable
Plan revision: Not specified
Performance monitoring and evaluation: Limited to project-specific monitoring that will be used to evaluate the implementation of the overall spatial plans; how this will be done is not specified




The German plans for both the North Sea and the Baltic Sea are available at:      
Additional reading is also available on the references page of this website.











Last updated: 12 April 2016