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What is Integrated Maritime Policy (IMP)?

The need for an integrated approach to the management of the oceans and their resources has long-been recognised by the international community.

For example, the preamble to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea states that ‘the problems of ocean space are closely inter-related and need to be considered as a whole. Similarly, the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) Johannesburg Plan of Implementation exhorts States to “promote integrated, multidisciplinary and multi-sectoral coastal and ocean management”.

Despite this, it is only relatively recently that countries have started to engage with the idea of a genuinely holistic approach to ocean management. The EU, a few of its members states and a number of third countries such as Australia, Canada, Norway and the United States, have recently developed new policy frameworks for sustainable use of the oceans which encompass every aspect of maritime affairs, and set specific goals in an inter-sectoral approach.

These approaches bring together specific tools and approaches to policy design and marine management (e.g. maritime spatial planning, integrated coastal zone management, integrated research, etc.) and specific approaches to governance (e.g. inter-institutional mechanisms) with the goal of improving the management of maritime affairs collectively and individually in each sector.

Within the EU, the Integrated Maritime Policy (IMP) was endorsed by the Heads of State and governments of the Member States in 2007. A major rationale underpinning the EU, and other countries’, integrated maritime policy, is that increased maritime activity and environmental protection can co-exist as long as the proper governance and integration mechanisms are in place.

At its simplest, Integrated Maritime Policy seeks to provide a more coherent approach to maritime issues, with increased coordination between different policy areas. In particular, it focuses on issues that require the coordination of different sectors and actors e.g. marine knowledge.

It seeks to coordinate, not to replace policies on specific maritime sectors.

On 8th October 2012 a Marine and Maritime Agenda for Growth was adopted by European Ministers for maritime policy and the European Commission, represented by President Jose Manuel Barroso and Commissioner Maria Damanaki, at a conference in Limassol organised by the Cypriot Presidency. Five years after the launch of the EU Integrated Maritime Policy, the Member States and the Commission reaffirmed that a dynamic and coordinated approach to maritime affairs enhances the development of the EU's 'Blue Economy' while ensuring the health of seas and oceans.