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Marine Spatial Planning and the Shipping Industry: If youre not at the table

By MarEx 2011-06-07 12:37:03

Written by:  Paul Holthus, Executive Director World Ocean Council

Marine spatial planning (MSP) is moving ahead rapidly in Europe, Australia and the U.S., creating a significant threat and opportunity for maritime industry access and operations in the marine environment. Unfortunately, the shipping industry is often not actively engaged in MSP in a coordinated manner. There is a substantial risk that the efficiency and safety of shipping will be compromised by the predominance of other stakeholder interests if there is not consistent, coordinated business presence at the MSP table.

Collaborating with other industries as a strong, collective, pro-active “ocean business community” is the best opportunity for maritime industries to shape the future of ocean use. To support this, the first-ever survey of ocean industries on MSP has just been launched and the cross-sectoral business forum on MSP convenes in July 13-14 in Washington D.C.

MSP is a defined by UNESCO as a public and political process of analyzing and allocating the spatial and temporal distribution of human activities in marine areas to achieve ecological, economic and social objectives. The reality is that environmental interests are driving MSP in most areas and ocean industries are not at the table much of the time as ocean planning moves forward.

If MSP is to support the sustainable use of marine space and resources by responsible industry operators, the ocean business community must be constructively engaged. The global nature of many ocean industries, the inter-connected nature of the marine environment and the growing interaction among ocean users argue for coordinated, cross-sectoral business collaboration in engaging the numerous MSP initiatives that are popping up around the world.

The need to manage industry conflicts and cumulative impacts is often cited as a fundamental rationale for MSP. Proponents of MSP state that it will provide numerous benefits for the business community, including:  better coordination of regulatory processes; streamlined permitting; increased certainty for investors; greater public and political buy-in for projects; acknowledgement of the importance of economic ocean uses; a process for industries to address spatial and operational conflicts and develop synergies.

Little information is available on whether these benefits are actually occurring or on business community attitudes, expectations and experiences related to MSP. To correct this glaring gap, the World Ocean Council is conducting the first international business survey on MSP. Members of the ocean business community are encouraged to complete the MSP survey here.

The survey closes on 30 June 2011 and the results will inform the development of coordinated industry efforts to engage in MSP.

The MSP situation in the U.S. presents a critical immediate opportunity for the ocean business community to actively engage in a coordinated multi-sectoral approach to ocean planning before getting too far behind the curve. The federal government recently established a National Ocean Council (NOC) that proposed to implement MSP through a series of nine regional programs.

The NOC is holding a national workshop in late June 2011 for government agencies to develop the government’s MSP Strategic Action Plan. The NGO community has had a national coalition on MSP for several years and is actively involved in the process. The ocean business community needs to get equally well organized.

To address this need, the WOC is organizing the National Business Forum on MSP (Washington D.C., 13-14 July) in partnership with Battelle Memorial Institute (a WOC Founding Member). This event will bring together the diverse ocean business community to foster, facilitate and – most importantly – plan for concrete business involvement in the U.S. MSP process.

The National Business Forum on MSP will:
• Create a clear understanding of MSP in the ocean business community
• Define and examine the potential business impacts and benefits of MSP
• Ensure the business community is fully informed of the specific U.S. MSP process and plans
• Develop an Action Plan for engaging MSP and facilitating/coordinating business involvement in MSP as it develops in the U.S.

For MSP Business Forum information and registration, click here.

The World Ocean Council (WOC) – the international business leadership alliance for Corporate Ocean Responsibility – is catalyzing a coordinated, constructive cross-sectoral ocean business community approach to MSP.

Ocean industries are encouraged to ensure their input and presence at the MSP table by participating in the Business Survey on MSP and the Business Forum on MSP in July. Business forums on MSP will be convened in Australia, Europe and other areas where MSP is developing.