Legislation and guidance

The purpose of maritime spatial planning is to promote the sustainable development and growth of different uses of the marine area, the sustainable use of natural resources, and the achievement of a good status of the marine environment.

The needs of the different uses must be examined in maritime spatial planning in order to coordinate them. The uses under examination include the energy sectors, maritime transport, fishing and aquaculture, tourism and recreation, as well as the preservation, conservation and improvement of nature, in particular. Attention must also be paid to the special characteristics of the marine area and the interaction between land and sea. In addition, attention must be paid to national defence needs.

 – Land Use and Building Act, section 67a

The EU’s Integrated Maritime Policy

The EU’s Integrated Maritime Policy is a policy framework to promote the sustainable development of all maritime activities and coastal areas by improving the coordination of policy measures affecting oceans, seas, islands, coastal areas and the remotest areas, as well as by developing multidisciplinary tools. 

The aim of the Integrated Maritime Policy is to improve consistency and coordination between sectors without interference in their operations, by focusing on issues covered by more than one policy.  The maritime policy areas include ‘blue growth’ – that is, the economic growth of maritime sectors – as well as maritime expertise, maritime spatial planning, integrated maritime surveillance and marine area strategies, such as the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region.

The EU’s Maritime Spatial Planning Directive

The aim of the Maritime Spatial Planning Directive is, in accordance with the Integrated Maritime Policy and the Blue Growth Strategy, to promote the sustainable economic growth of marine areas, as well as the sustainable use of marine natural resources and the protection of ecosystems under circumstances where the use of marine areas and human pressure are increasing. The directive requires the EU coastal states to prepare maritime spatial plans by the end of March 2021. The maritime spatial plans will be designed to coordinate various interests concerning marine areas, as well as preventing conflicts between such interests. The aim of the coordination of various activities is also to achieve synergy benefits between maritime uses. 

Maritime policy and maritime spatial planning are closely linked to the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, which is an environmental component of maritime policy. It provides a framework for the Member States’ measures that are necessary to achieve and maintain a good status of the marine environment by 2020. Maritime spatial planning must contribute to the goals of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. The Marine Strategy Framework Directive has been implemented in Finland by means of the Act on the Organisation of River Basin Management and the Marine Strategy.

Land Use and Building Act

In Finland, maritime spatial planning is regulated by the Land Use and Building Act. The regional councils are responsible for the preparation of maritime spatial plans, and the Ministry of the Environment is responsible for the general development and guidance of maritime spatial planning, as well as cooperation with other countries to coordinate maritime spatial plans with them. The maritime spatial plan will be updated every 10 years.


The Åland Islands has jurisdiction over its own maritime spatial planning, and the provisions concerning maritime spatial planning are laid down in the Water Act. The Åland Islands prepares a maritime spatial plan for its territorial waters. 

The planning areas are regulated by the Government Decree on Maritime Spatial Planning. The regional councils responsible for the three planning areas are as follows:

Gulf of Finland –Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council and Regional Council of Kymenlaakso

Archipelago Sea and southern Bothnian Sea –Regional Council of Southwest Finland and Regional Council of Satakunta

Northern Bothnian Sea, Quark and Bothnian Bay –Regional Council of Ostrobothnia, Regional Council of Central Ostrobothnia, Council of Oulu Region and Regional Council of Lapland

The maritime spatial plan is prepared for the marine area that covers the territorial waters and the Exclusive Economic Zone from the coastline all the way to the external border of the Exclusive Economic Zone. The plan is a general plan to be presented on the map. It examines the needs of various sectors, particularly the energy industry, maritime transport, fishing and aquaculture, tourism and recreation, as well as environmental preservation, conservation and improvement. Cultural heritage, the maritime industry, the extractive sector and blue biotechnology have also been identified as important themes in terms of planning. When preparing plans, attention is paid to the local characteristics of the marine area and the interaction between land and sea, as well as national defence needs.

In maritime spatial planning, the sea is examined comprehensively, and the main focus is on collecting and sharing information and holding discussions with stakeholders. The maritime spatial plan has no legal impact, nor does it have a binding impact on permit and other procedures based on other legislation. Instead, its effectiveness is largely based on increased information about the marine area, as well as on cooperation between the authorities and other parties and their possible commitment to consider the plans in their own operations. 


In terms of plans in line with the land use planning system, such as regional and municipal plans, the added value created by the maritime spatial plan is based on the examination of the marine area as an extensive whole, including the identification and coordination of the needs and interests of the Exclusive Economic Zone and various sectors. Synergy benefits can be achieved, and a mutual understanding and information can be increased through the coordination of interests. The maritime spatial plan promotes preparation for the future development and needs of marine-related industries and the management of environmental pressures concerning the sea. 

Like the maritime spatial plan, Finland’s national marine strategy extends from the coastline to the external border of the Exclusive Economic Zone. Maritime spatial planning aims to promote the goals of the marine strategy and the water management plan to achieve a good status of the marine environment. 

The diagram below presents the application areas of national land use goals and plans in accordance with the maritime spatial plan, marine strategy, water management plan and land use planning system.



Directive 2014/89/EU [1] establishing a framework for maritime spatial planning

Integrated Maritime Policy of the European Union (COM(2007)0575)

Act on the Exclusive Economic Zone of Finland 1058/2004 (483/2016) 

Land Use and Building Act 132/1999 (482/2016)

Marine Strategy Framework Directive (2008/56/EC)

Blue Growth Strategy (COM(2012)0494)

Government Decree on Maritime Spatial Planning (816/2016)

Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EY)