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BY-NC-ND 3.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Open Access December 30, 2016

Maritime Spatial Planning in Cyprus

  • Diofantos Hadjimitsis , Athos Agapiou EMAIL logo , Kyriakos Themistocleous , Christodoulos Mettas , Evagoras Evagorou , Giorgos Soulis , Zafeiris Xagoraris , Maria Pilikou , Kyriakos Aliouris and Nicolas Ioannou
From the journal Open Geosciences


Spatial Planning is a critical tool for land management and is extensively used in all developed nations. The Marine Spatial Planning (MSP), at the European Union (EU) level, is based on Directive 2014/89/EU of the European Parliament and Council of 23rd July 2014 which establishes a common framework for MSP in the EU, which each Member State is called to apply in relation to the maritime space under its jurisdiction (marine waters). In this paper the overall results from the “Cross-Border Cooperation for the development of Marine Spatial Planning” project are presented for the area of Cyprus. A variety of activities fall within the MSP such as maritime transport routes and traffic flows, exploration, exploitation and extraction of energy resources, tourism, underwater cultural heritage etc. In addition, the legal framework, activities maps are also shown. The variety of conflicts maps for the area of Limassol are illustrated both in 2D and 3D. A hypothetical scenario of Limassol town in Cyprus as an energy center is presented based on the overall results. The paper ends with some conclusions regarding the framework of MSP in Cyprus.

1 Introduction

Spatial Planning is a critical tool for land management and is extensively used in all developed nations. In this way, many social and economic issues that occurred during the evolution of civilizations are solved. For instance, during the industrial revolution of the 19th century, many difficulties appeared due to the accumulation of populations in regions where there was lack of proper infrastructure to accommodate large numbers of people and structures. As a result, the lack of raw materials, contaminations of water sources, etc. demonstrated the required manner for proper planning [1].

However, until a few years ago, a small number of countries had a clear vision for the future use of marine areas [2]. This does not imply, necessarily, that all uses of the sea are uncontrollable or marine areas are not properly occupied. The areas at sea are regulated or distributed in different ways, but mainly serve economic interests, since these activities are the ones that are most profitable. Obvious examples of the existing marine planning zones are created for the route of ships (shipping), the rejection of waste materials, military security and extraction of natural resources [3].

Moreover, marine activities are continuously increasing, thereby resulting in high competition between interests of different marine uses, such that shipping and maritime transport, offshore energy, developing ports, fish-eries, aquaculture and environmental protection. When these activities are combined with climate change, rising sea levels, acid rain, rising water temperatures and the frequency of extreme weather phenomena observed in recent years, it is likely to shift economic activities in maritime areas and cause alteration of marine ecosystems. Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) can minimize all the above problems by promoting the efficient use of maritime space and renewable energy through the use of efficient low-cost adaptation measures [4].

Geographical Information Systems (GIS) can be used to assist stakeholders to implement an MSP process in an area [59]. This paper aims to present the overall results from the implementation of MSP process in Cyprus in a theoretical scenario. The results presented here were prepared by the appointed legal team in the context of the strategic project Cross-border Cooperation, for the Development of Marine Spatial Planning”013 (MSP project) of the Cross-border Cooperation Programme “Greece-Cyprus 2007-2013” and documents the relevant legislation applicable in the coastal zone and the maritime zones of the Republic of Cyprus (RoC). This paper aims to present firstly the legal framework, secondly the activities and conflicts from the data gathered for MSP analysis using GIS and last some results from the current activities in Cyprus.

2 Legal framework

MSP is based on the Directive 2014/89/EU of the European Parliament and Council of 23rd July 2014 which establishes a common framework for MSP in the EU, which each Member State is called to apply in relation to its marine waters. In particular, the Directive creates the basis for MSP with the purpose of promoting the sustainable growth of maritime economies, the sustainable development of marine areas and the sustainable use of marine resources. This framework provides for the establishment and implementation of maritime spatial planning by Member States, taking into account land-sea interactions and enhanced cross-border cooperation, in accordance with relevant United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea of 1982 (UNCLOS) provisions.

Directive 2014/89/EU has not yet been incorporated into the Cyprus legal system. According to Article 15 (trans-position) of the Directive, Member States must bring into force the laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with this Directive by 18 September 2016, while they must establish maritime spatial plans at the latest by 31 March 2021. The RoC has already put forward a draft bill implementing the Directive, which is expected to be brought to the House of Parliament for enactment in the near future. In spite of this, the RoC, in the context of the MSP project and the implementation of the National Maritime Spatial Planning, fully applies the provisions of the Directive.

As regards to the coastal zone, the project dealt with matters concerning the land-sea interactions, as provided in the Directive and according to the provisions of the Protocol on Integrated Coastal Zone Management, to the Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Region of the Mediterranean (Barcelona Convention). The RoC has not yet ratified the Protocol, nor officially set the landward limit of its coastal zone. The land-ward limit of the zone will be decided through a multi-criteria analysis at a later stage. Nevertheless, the competent authorities of the State already apply the provisions of the Protocol for their planning regarding the management of the coastal zone and MSP. For the purposes of the MSP project, the landward limit of the coastal zone was considered to be up to 1 kilometre from the coast of Cyprus.

3 Methodology

For the aims of the project, all 60 seas and land activities related to MSP have been collected. The different thematic layers of data were finally gathered from the Ministry of Transport, Communications and Works, Ministry of Energy, Commerce, Industry and Tourism, Department of Merchant Shipping, Department of Environment, Department of Fisheries and Marine Research, Cyprus Ports Authority, District Administration Offices and other relevant services and agencies. The complete dataset of the data included contours, ports and port areas, ship routes and traffic flows, fishing shelters, fishing areas, fishing protected areas, Natura 2000, marine protected areas, artificial reefs, aquaculture areas, locations for exploration, exploitation and extraction of underwater energy resources, renewable energy resources, submarine pipelines, cables etc. A sample of the dataset examined (non-confidential) is provided in the Appendix.

In order to identify any conflicts between these activities two different approaches were followed. In the beginning, once the geo-database was completed, the national, EU and international legislation, applicable in the coastal zone and maritime zones (territorial sea, contiguous zone, exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and continental shelf) of Cyprus, was studied by lawyers. Therefore, some conflicts between the different activities were defined from this step. In parallel, best practices from other MSP applications were taken into consideration such as the example of Northern Sea (MASPNOSE); Baltic Sea (Plan Both-nia and BaltSeaPlan); Adriatic Sea (ADRIPLAN) etc. Based on these outcomes, a catalogue related to the identification of potential compatibilities and conflicts between the different activities (hereafter the term “activities” includes all possible types and kinds of activities and uses) taking place on Cyprus’ coastal and maritime zones was constructed. Each one of these 60 different activities was cross compared to the rest, in order to determine any potential conflict. In total more than 3500 comparisons were carried out (table 60 × 60 activities). Figure 1 presents the overall results. This effort was contacted under the auspices of the Department of Land and Surveyors of Cyprus as the official cartographic organization of the island.

Figure 1 Conflicts’ table between the different sea and land activities (in red) for the 60 different data that have gathered for Cyprus MSP; orange colors are neutral activities; green color indicates positive growth between the activities; dark gray are activities that may have both positive and negative relation while light gray are activities that cannot co-exist in reality together.
Figure 1

Conflicts’ table between the different sea and land activities (in red) for the 60 different data that have gathered for Cyprus MSP; orange colors are neutral activities; green color indicates positive growth between the activities; dark gray are activities that may have both positive and negative relation while light gray are activities that cannot co-exist in reality together.

4 Results

4.1 Conflicts

Figure 2 presents a map from the different activities in the southern area of Cyprus (Limassol district), which features a variety of activities both on land and sea co-exist in a small area, while some of them interact between the land/sea activities. This interaction might be either entitled as “conflict” (with red colour in Figure 1) or “neutral” (with pink colour in Figure 1). At times, some activities are in favor to some others (with green colour in Figure 1) giving a positive value to both activities that are in interaction. Different activities, with different purposes can be found in this area of Cyprus: energy centers and submarine pipelines, fishing areas and fishing protected areas and others. This “mosaic” of activities tends to bring obstacles to MSP since some of these need to be re-allocated in a new area etc.

Figure 2 Map indicating the different activities both in land as well in sea in the southern part of Cyprus (Limassol district).
Figure 2

Map indicating the different activities both in land as well in sea in the southern part of Cyprus (Limassol district).

Based on the different data from the activities, as shown in Figure 2 and the list of conflicts (Figure 1), a conflict map in the southern part of Cyprus has been prepared in a GIS environment. Two steps were followed so as to map the conflict zones. At the beginning a buffer zone of conflict was set for each activity. The size of this buffer zone was set based on the legal framework of Cyprus or from the various examples of other MSP already conducted in Europe. Then Boolean geometry was applied so as to define any real conflict between the different activities. The above mentioned analysis was carried out within the ArcGIS software. The final map (Figure 3) can support stakeholders to understand where the pressure from the different conflicts can be easily identified. In order to achieve a robust and reliable spatial analysis for the whole dataset, a model was also constructed in the ArcGIS environment.

Figure 3 Conflicts between the different activities as recorded from the MSP project. With red colour are the areas with highest number of conflicts.
Figure 3

Conflicts between the different activities as recorded from the MSP project. With red colour are the areas with highest number of conflicts.

As featured in Figure 3, several conflicts have been recorded between the different activities in Cyprus. Areas with higher number of conflicts are recorded with red colour. These areas are mainly the ports of Cyprus such as Limassol (and Larnaca as well as Paphos ports), while an extreme number of conflicts are also recorded in the area of Zygi.

Conflicts indicated in Figure 3 can be distinguished into three major categories: conflicts between sea-land activities; conflicts between sea activities and conflicts in the continental shelf. These maps may help stakeholders to identify any potential conflicts between these three levels. As shown, in a 3D environment (Figure 4) conflicts existing at the bottom of the sea, sea column and sea surface can vary. At the bottom of the sea (Figure 4a), submarine cables, pipelines and shipwrecks are some of the main activities, while fisheries and protected Natura areas are also present in the sea column (Figure 4b). At the sea surface (Figure 4c) ship routes, ports, energy centers, aquaculture can be seen. Therefore, a different spatial planning can be designed in different levels taking into consideration also the inter-relations between the different levels.

Figure 4 Sea conflicts between the different activities as recorded from the MSP project for three different levels: bottom of the sea, sea column and sea surface.
Figure 4

Sea conflicts between the different activities as recorded from the MSP project for three different levels: bottom of the sea, sea column and sea surface.

5 Future hypothetical scenarios

Different hypothetical scenarios can be inferred by experts and stakeholders so as to identify the most suitable solution scenario for the future. In the example given below, energy resources and energy centers are considered as the main activity to be promoted in the future for this area. Concurrently, environmental, fisheries and aquaculture activities need to be protected, while emphasis is also given to tourism and cultural heritage protection. As shown in Figure 5, the energy center will be established in the Zygi area, while future ship routes and traffic flows at this center will be multiplied. A buffer zone around this area will be established to establish a smooth transition between the other activities with those of the energy centre. In addition, current road network will need to be designed to assist the needs of the centre. Tourism activities are present in the area of Limassol, where several hotels, tourist facilities and marinas exists. Important cultural heritage monuments such as those of Amathus will be protected and linked the touristic zone with the buffer zone of the center [6]. The port of Limassol will continue to grow in the eastern part of Limassol.

Figure 5 Hypothetical scenario in the area of Limassol with different activities re-allocated.
Figure 5

Hypothetical scenario in the area of Limassol with different activities re-allocated.

6 Discussion

Currently, many EU member states are in the process, based on the EU Directive, to establish and implement an integrated MSP in order to protect the environment and safeguard the socio-economic interests of each country [1017]. To date, few plans have provided a comprehensive strategy in dealing with all marine activities. Indeed, the absence of such a design causes a variety of problems [18]. The most important of these are: (a) the spatial and temporal conflicts between human activities in coastal areas and the sea; (b) the lack of cooperation between various authorities and services responsible for many activities or for the protection and management of the environment; (c) the absence of a link between the activities in the depths of the sea and coastal uses that depend on them; (d) the lack of protection and conservation of biologically and ecologically sensitive marine areas and (e) the lack of certainty in terms of investment [19]. MSP provides a comprehensive process that can address and solve the situations above [19]. It is an evolving concept that aims to maintain ecosystems along with the temporal and spatial evolution of human activities and their expected conflicts.

The examination of the legislation of the RoC for the purposes of the present framework included the legislation – national, EU and international – which is applied in relation to the maritime zones of the state, as well as the land area of the coastal zone (1 Km landwards from coast). Generally, the RoC has a broad legal framework regulating activities at sea. The Cyprus legislation implements the acquis communautaire, as well as a great number of international agreements, including UNCLOS. Some deviations from the EU or international law are observed; these are mainly due to the fact that a number of national laws are very old. However, according to the Cyprus legal system based on the Constitution of the Republic, this is not particularly problematic, since the EU legislation supersedes national legislation in cases of conflict. The same applies in the event of conflict between national legislation and subsequent ratifying laws of international agreements.

The examination of the existing legislation reveals some concerns, such as the absence of regulation of some activities and as well as the incompatibility of provisions with EU/international law or the overlap between provisions of national legislation. These issues are under consideration by the government of the RoC in an ongoing project for the review of the legislation regarding the sea. The purpose of the said governmental project is the revision of the legislation on the basis of international law (esp. UNCLOS), as well as the EU legislation, including the EU Integrated Marine Policy and Maritime Spatial Planning.

Some issues identified regarding the territorial sea include, inter alia, the practical application of primary legislation in the absence of secondary legislation for some marine and maritime activities, the absence or insufficiency of regulation of activities, such as marine scientific research, the laying of submarine cables and pipelines, including regulation for pipelines for the transport of hydro-carbons if exclusively in territorial sea and land, the protection of such cables and pipelines and the establishment of artificial islands installations and structures and safety zones.

While the existing legal framework is based on, and is in line with, UNCLOS, regulating a great number of activities relating to the sovereign rights and jurisdiction of Cyprus in its contiguous zone, EEZ and continental shelf, lack of regulation is observed in relation to some activities. For instance, lack of regulation is noted regarding the establishment of artificial islands, installations and structures, proposing the enactment of secondary legislation as well as the review of the existing legislation regarding the establishment of safety zones around such artificial islands, installations and structures.

A possible amendment of the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf Laws of 2004 and 2014 is also suggested in order to resolve incompatibility of its provisions with the legislation concerning hydrocarbons and with the EU Common Fisheries Policy. The legislation concerning hydrocarbons may also require review in light of the experience of the government in its application.

7 Conclusions

The absence of MSP implies the presence of many difficulties that inevitably cause problems in the environment, society and economy. In Cyprus, the geographical location and the massive area of its EEZ (compared to its land size) are two very important reasons for the formation of a precise and integral MSP. Conflicts between the different activities can be resolved using GIS tool. A successful application of MSP to resolve conflicts depends on the level of stakeholder involvement, data availability and the existing knowledge base [20].

The current paper aims to present the overall results of the “Cross-Border Cooperation for the development of Marine Spatial Planning” project, where several activities have been catalogued and mapped. In addition, conflicts between these activities are also demonstrated both in 2D as well in 3D. MSP can be extremely complicated since a variety of activities need to be planned keeping at the same time a balance from one hand between the ecosystem, cultural and natural heritage and on the other economic growth. Based on the overall results a hypothetical scenario is also presented.

The legal framework of the RoC relating to MSP, generally, secures the rights and obligations of the RoC, is in accordance with the EU and international law and constitutes a solid basis for the National Maritime Spatial Planning and the wider Integrated Marine Policy of the state. Tackling the issues raised in the paper regarding the legislation may help strengthening this framework.

The numerous laws - primary and secondary - as well as the concomitant competence of more than one governmental authorities in relation to marine and maritime activities, inevitably increase the bureaucracy and the time spent for the processing of applications for permits; the issuance of more than one permits for the same activity is often required and shared competence of two or more authorities for the purposes of inspection and control is observed. While more than one legislation or competences are sometimes necessary, it is important to establish a working system of cooperation between the governmental authorities, so that overlapping laws or procedures is avoided for the facilitation of applicants, as well as the protection of the interests of the RoC and its citizens.


The Action entitled: “Cross-Border Cooperation for the development of Marine Spatial Planning” referred as THAL-CHOR (in Greek A -X P) is co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) by 80% and by national funds of Greece and Cyprus by 20%, under the Cross-Border Cooperation Programme “Greece-Cyprus 2007-2013”.


Table 1

Data used for the aims of the study (only non-confidential data are shown).

1Air navigation warningsPolygon
3Artificial coastlineLine
4Artificial reefsPoint
5Chart datumPolygon
6Coastal protection zoneLine
7Danger linesLine
8Desalination disposal areasPoint
9Desalination plantsPoint
10Dumping areasPolygon
11Energy centersPolygon
13Fish nursery stationsPoint
14Fuel storagesPoint
15High waterlinesLine
16MSP breakwatersPoint
17MSP portsPoint
18Natura areasPolygon
19Natural coastlineLine
20Nitrate vulnerable zonesPolygon
22Planning zonesPolygon
23Port areasPoint
24Port extents zonesPolygon
25Port limitsLine
27Posidonia meadowsPolygon
28Power stationsPoint
29Published blocksPolygon
30Quarrying leasesPoint
31Restricted fishing areasPolygon
32Sea life protected areasPolygon
33Ship routesLine
34Submarine cablesLine
35Swimming area limitsPolygon
36Waste pubbing stationsPoint
37Waste treatment plantsPoint


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Received: 2015-10-15
Accepted: 2015-12-8
Published Online: 2016-12-30
Published in Print: 2016-1-1

© 2016 D. G. Hadjimitsis et al.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License.

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