• Nathalie Mezza-Garcia

Maritime Spatial Planning: What do we need to sustainably grow floating cities?

By Dr. Nathalie Mezza-Garcia


Hopefully, everyone whose work aims at building floating cities, houses, and other kinds of floating developments, finds it important to expand coastal urban spaces while preserving marine ecosystems. Here is where Marine Spatial Planning comes into place.


Source: https://www.mspglobal2030.org/showcasing-msp-to-stakeholders-and-civil-society-through-storytelling-tool/


Maritime Spatial Planning will consist of zoning the ocean (or parts of it) for the various activities that take place there. This will allow growing the blue economy while leaving specific locations for energy generation, dwellings, animal and marine protection, and other types of activities. Zoning can also help with calculating ocean GDP. Beginnings of Maritime Spatial Planning are visible today: some wind farms have aquaculture farms in between the turbines.



Designating specific maritime zones is important because of the ocean’s transboundary nature. Given that many ocean resources and life are not fixed in a particular place, the management of common resources has to involve multiple levels of stakeholders. As Elinor Ostom and some authors who favor some forms of ocean privatization support point out, the problem with oceans is that they belong to no one. That is why every year 61% of the world’s fish stocks are fully fished (https://www.fishforward.eu/en/topics/facts-figures/) and more than 8 million tonnes of plastic enter the oceans annually (https://seasave.org/plastic-pollution/).


To begin exploring maritime spatial planning, the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (DG MARE) @EU_MARE and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) - UNESCO @IocUnesco, through the Marine Spatial Planning Initiative, MSP Global Project, together with states, communities, private sector, and scientists, have begun pilots in the Mediterranean and the southeast Pacific (South America). These pilots envisioned scenarios for shared cross-national ocean management between countries in the mentioned regions: Algeria, France, Italy, Malta, Morocco, Spain, Tunisia; and Ecuador, Peru.


Julien Barbiere, who spoke at the latest MSP Global event, highlighted that, while transboundary ocean resource management is more known at the national level, it is important to start doing it at an international one. Doing so requires collaboration between diverse contributors, from offshore resource extraction companies to big and small fisheries; from floating city architects, marine archaeologists, conservationists, and algae farmers to maritime engineers. It should also include government partners of multiple nature and mouthpieces or spokesperson for underwater life.


No fixed recipe exists nor will ever exist that will work for every place nor every sea. Some countries will prefer highly differentiated zoning while others will choose mixed uses–like on land. For residential scenarios (for floating cities and neighborhoods), it is likely that some developments will be planned to the millimeter while others will grow organically.


Regardless of the approach, maritime zoning has to be a multi-disciplinary process. It is important when doing Maritime Spatial Planning to take into account the meteo-marine, cultural, technological, and environmental characteristics of each area. One example of projects exploring related topics to maritime spatial planning was Space at Sea, which Seaphia was happy to virtually host in 2020. Further financial support and technical expertise are needed, especially in countries with low economics and access to applied science. However, that these conversations are already happening is extremely important.


With more of these experiments in maritime governance taking place, at Seaphia we can’t help wonder whether we are heading towards a more international form of zoning in international waters. Is this a step towards the first pilot of a floating city with its own regulatory framework on the High seas? A Special Maritime Zone, perhaps? We don’t know yet. But we will keep you informed of the relevant discussions and analysis to the floating space audience, as they enable our capacity to move forward with pioneering approaches to water developments.


Let us hear your comments, questions, and suggestions on the topic, we are here to help!


In the photo, Seaphia’s CEO and COO, Nathalie Mezza-Garcia and Nataly Velásquez


Seaphia breathes and lives floating cities. We were pleased to be at the MSPGlobal Final Conference on October 5th.


Check the very complete MSPGlobal Site for a complete reference on the initiative.



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