Conclusions current status of shipping

Conclusion: Designated areas for shipping and Offshore Wind Farms in Maritime Spatial Plans


The map shows designated IMO shipping routes, priority areas for shipping and off-shore wind farm areas for the North Sea countries, as they appeared in the respective countries’ MSP plans in 2016. In the priority areas for shipping some inconsistencies are visible which will be further described below.


Inconsistencies between AIS shipping data and designated shipping zones in Maritime Spatial Plans

In developing a GIS map showing maritime traffic, IMO routeing measures and other designated priority areas for shipping, two inconsistencies became evident between what the AIS data shows and what is presented in the MSP plans.

1. Shore of Denmark


The red circle highlights an area where both intense shipping takes place at the same time as it is designated as areas prioritized for wind farms. It should be emphasised however that Denmark has at the time of writing this report no MSP plan in place and the areas marked for off shore wind farms are hence not part of a MSP plan. Yet, it is still noteworthy that the circled area is subject to interest for both shipping and exploitation of off shore wind farms.

2. German-Dutch Border


The red circle highlights a discrepancy between the direction of the designated shipping route (blue route) and the ship traffic (blue dots). Although there can be seasonal spatial variations in the maritime traffic, in this case the discrepancy remained even when applying different seasonal AIS maps.

General conclusions of status quo

  • AIS data on vessel traffic in the North Sea shows that the area is intensely trafficked throughout the year, with certain increases in the summer months. In the south part and along the coasts shipping is more intense than in other areas.
  • Ships’ routing measures were originally established for safety reasons and points out a predetermined route for ships to sail in order to minimize risk of accidents and other hazards. IMO is the only international body recognised for establishing ships’ routing measures. Several routing measures are established in the North Sea, in particular in the southern parts.
  • Individual states have designated certain areas of their sea areas as priority areas for shipping. In these areas, shipping is granted priority over other sea-based activities.
  • North Sea states have had transnational dialogues with regards to planning and designation of shipping routes and OWF. However, these consultations did not always take place under the umbrella of MSP but more on a sectorial basis.
  • Sectorial consultations, as opposed to MSP discussions, run the risk of not taking into consideration effects of sectorial activities on other activities.
  • The absence of a common North Sea platform for MSP discussions on shipping and OWF was not pointed out as a concern or problem during the interviews carried out with MSP authority representatives in the North Sea countries.
  • The EU directive on MSP promotes it as a tool which will provide a holistic approach to management of sea uses.