The Legal and Policy context of Multi-use Offshore Platforms

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The MERMAID project, will develop concepts for a next generation offshore platforms for multi-use of ocean space for energy extraction, aquaculture and platform related transport. Both economical, technical, environmental and site-specific challenges related to multi-use offshore platforms (MUPs) will be investigated. An important aspect of this kind of large-scale development projects, is to identify the legislation and policies in place that regulate and sometimes limit the development of the MUPs. Within the MERMAID project an inventory was built of the international, European and site-specific legislation and policies that are related explicitly or implicitly to the development and adoption of offshore wind farms and aquaculture projects. Below, the most relevant international and European legislation and policies are listed.

An important concept in the development of MUPs is Ecosystem Based Management (EBM) which is universally acknowledged as an approach that accommodates the complete set of interactions within an ecosystem, including humans, rather than accounting for single issues, species, or ecosystem services in isolation. EBM could be bolstered by tools such as Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) and Ocean Zoning (OZ). MSP is an integrated planning framework to manage human activities in space and time to deliver on defined planning objectives, whereas OZ consists of a set of supervisory measures designed to enforce marine spatial plans. MSP constitutes the cornerstone of the legislation and policies that regulate and limit the development of human projects related to the marine environment.

Offshore Wind Farms

International legislation and Policies

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS; UN 1982) is a universal system of laws and rules for the world's oceans and seas, covering extensively the use of the oceans and their natural resources. UNCLOS introduces some concepts and regulations which are of specific importance for the development of MUPs:

  • Countries with coasts own sovereign rights in a 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) with respect to natural resources and specific economic activities, and exercise authority over marine science research and environmental protection. Hence, the coastal state has in its EEZ, the exclusive rights, to exploit its renewable resources and to construct and to authorize and regulate the construction, operation and use of artificial islands and of installation and structures to exploit those resources.
  • With regard to navigation, UNCLOS stipulates that the coastal state may in its EEZ or above its continental shelf, where necessary, establish reasonable safety zones around the artificial islands, installations and structures, in which it may take appropriate measures to ensure the safety of navigation and of the artificial islands, installations and structures.
  • UNCLOS regulates the removal of installations once the offshore wind energy production has ceased.

There are some conventions of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) with regard to maritime safety which are (indirectly) relevant for the development of MUPs.

  • The Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREG) is the main convention for regulating international maritime traffic.