Tiina Tihlman – Involved in Maritime Spatial Planning from the Start

Maritime spatial planning (MSP) in Finland is conducted regionally in coastal regional councils. The Ministry of the Environment is responsible for overall guidance of MSP as well as intergovernmental MSP cooperation. Ministerial adviser Tiina Tihlman has been involved from the very first steps of MSP, negotiating Finland’s perspectives and needs, and sharing Finnish knowledge and expertise on international platforms. Times change, and MSP evolves accordingly, but its focus is always on the future.

Maritime Spatial Planning in collaboration with Coastal Regional Councils and Ministry of the Environment

In Finland, unlike other EU countries, responsibility for MSP lies at the regional level. The joint planning effort of eight coastal regions is geographically and thematically larger than any other land use planning cooperation in Finland. The central body for this collaboration is the MSP Coordination Group, which includes representatives from the coastal regional councils and the Ministry of the Environment.

The Ministry of the Environment is responsible for the overall guidance of MSP and for intergovernmental cooperation. Tiina Tihlman has been a key figure at the ministry, liaising both with the regional councils and internationally from the early stages of maritime spatial planning.

“The Maritime Spatial Planning Directive has been in force since 2014, but the need for maritime spatial planning in the EU emerged as early as 2007. The year 2013 was particularly busy with preparations, as countries negotiated the wording of the directive to ensure it could be integrated into their respective systems. For Finland, it was crucial to ensure there would be no overlap with the land use planning system. Instead, the goal was for the maritime spatial plan to be a process that provides information on the entire marine area and engages various authorities, stakeholders, and experts in considering the sustainable use of the marine area,” describes Tiina Tihlman, reflecting on the administrative steps at the beginning of maritime spatial planning.

Integrated coastal management and use have been mandatory for countries even before the Maritime Spatial Planning Directive and its national implementation, which in Finland occurred in 2016. In MSP, coastal considerations are implemented by examining land-sea interactions. Both approaches involve an integrated method where local considerations are paramount, but cooperation also occurs among Baltic Sea states to prepare recommendations. The Finnish Coastal Strategy was prepared between 2023 and 2024 at the Ministry of the Environment under Tiina Tihlman’s leadership, with extensive support from coastal regional councils. The Maritime Spatial Plan 2030 for Finland and Coastal Strategy are being implemented simultaneously in the ongoing Baltic Sea2Land project.

Maritime spatial planning is guided by 10 principles established through Baltic Sea cooperation when HELCOM and VASAB combined their efforts in 2010. “Finland led the cooperation that reviewed existing principles from Malawi, UNESCO, HELCOM, and VASAB, culminating in commonly accepted principles for Baltic Sea maritime spatial planning. These principles have stood the test of time; 14 years later, they continue to guide maritime spatial planning in Finland,” says Tihlman.

Maritime spatial planning applies an ecosystem-based approach (EBA). The work in the Baltic Sea is directed by the HELCOM-VASAB Maritime Spatial Planning Working Group, which also prepares EBA recommendations for countries. Tiina Tihlman has been a member of this H-V MSP WG from the beginning. “The approach has matured over the years. Initially, the focus was on participation, interaction, and evaluating various planning alternatives and their impacts. Over time, with increased knowledge, the approach has shifted towards more ecological information and its application in maritime spatial planning. Continuous cooperation among countries is key to ensuring a unified direction, whether planning is done nationally or regionally,” Tihlman explains regarding international cooperation.

Maritime Spatial Planning at a Turning Point

Maritime spatial planning is adaptive, following the changing political and administrative environment in society, as well as subtler signals. The planning adapts to the evolving situation, engaging marine stakeholders and authorities in collectively considering the changed scenario and incorporating it into the planning methods.

“The EU Commission closely monitors maritime spatial planning in member countries, their methods, and outcomes. The future goal of the Commission is to view marine areas as a whole, in addition to individual country plans. For us, this means that in the Baltic Sea, maritime spatial planning should be prepared with as much uniformity as possible through international cooperation. HELCOM-VASAB MSP cooperation among Baltic Sea countries provides a solid foundation for this,” Tihlman says.

EU countries have prepared their first maritime spatial plans, and the update process is underway in several countries. In Finland, the maritime spatial plan will be updated between 2024 and 2027 through extensive stakeholder cooperation led by coastal regional councils.

“In Finland, maritime spatial planning is loosely regulated, allowing for an innovative approach to its development. The planning is in the hands of skilled professionals, and thus my confidence in maritime spatial planners and their ability to learn from the past and develop even better planning practices is strong. Since Finnish maritime spatial planning regulations are minimal, I recommend new maritime spatial planners familiarize themselves with the MSP Directive, which provides a broader understanding of maritime spatial planning, its content, and its connections to other EU regulations,” advises Tihlman to current and future maritime spatial planners.

The Sea and Its Use is a Shared Concern for Society

The goal of maritime spatial planning is to promote the sustainable development of various uses of the marine area and the blue economy, the sustainable use of marine resources, and the achievement of a good marine environment.

The use of marine areas is at a crossroads. Alongside traditional marine uses, there is an increasing interest in marine space, especially for marine energy production. The goals of the green transition and the geopolitical crisis have accelerated political will to increase marine wind power production. Strengthening national security and security of supply as well as societal resilience against the impacts of climate change, however, requires considering the needs of all marine sectors. Nature, food, energy—these are all significant themes that need to be considered simultaneously, without neglecting other marine activities. There is now more focus on marine multi-use, the co-location of various activities in the same areas. The sustainable use of marine areas is a shared concern for the entire society.

Tihlman has a clear message for everyone: marine sectors, experts, authorities, and local communities: “When the use of marine areas is planned together on a sustainable basis, the sea can bring joy to everyone!”


Postscript: The Maritime Spatial Planning Coordination Group warmly thanks the open-minded, innovative, and friendly Tiina for guiding and supporting Finnish MSP work and wishes her favorable winds in her new phase of life in the autumn of 2024!