Portugal has one of the largest EEZs in Europe covering more than 1,700,000 km2. In 2006 in response to the need to develop a framework for sustainable marine resource use, as well as for arbitrating between competing marine activities, Portugal approved a National Ocean Strategy. The document promoted the management of multiple activities (present and future), conservation awareness, and valuing marine habitats and biodiversity. In 2008-09 the Portuguese government began developing a maritime spatial plan for its maritime space through an activity called “Planning and Ordering of Maritime Space” (POEM). It was led by a multidisciplinary team consisting of representatives from the Portuguese ministries, Instituto Nacional da Agua (INAG, the Portuguese Water Institute), and four external consultants, including academic experts.

A first phase of planning included identifying and involving relevant stakeholders from the beginning. Efforts were made to foster acceptance, participation and support from all parties and gain information and knowledge from them. Marine resources and activities were characterised and mapped, potential future activities were identified, and factors necessary for sustainable development were determined. A geographic information system was developed to incorporate resources, activities and associated data within the Portuguese maritime space. Finally, diagnoses were developed for each sector, as well as for the maritime space, to analyse co-existence of activities and the relationships among multiple use and protection regulations. In a second phase, the future potential of each human activity was assessed from a sustainable development perspective.

The current and future social, economic and environmental values, as well as the maritime space and natural resources needed for their development were determined and evaluated. Potential conflicts between natural resource protection and economic activities and various sectoral activities were analysed. Integrating and matching various competing interests, e.g., navigation and maritime transport, fisheries, aquaculture, oil and mineral resources extraction, offshore energy production, algae production, tourism, nature conservation and water quality, were also assessed. A preliminary draft plan included: designated areas for resource conservation and usage; management guidelines and measures for the protection of resources and economic activities, taking into account the multi-dimensional extent of the maritime space; and the temporal and spatial compatibility needs of maritime space use.


A public consultation process was begun in 2010-11 to review the POEM documents.  However, soon afterward the government changed with implications for MSP, including the establishment of a new agency—the Ministry for Agriculture, Sea, Environment, and Spatial Planning (MAMAOT)—responsible for both terrestrial and maritime spatial planning. Several agencies were reorganised or disbanded including the agency responsible for the development of POEM.

A new Directorate General for Maritime Policy was created to develop a National Ocean Strategy. The National Ocean Strategy, 2013-2020, sought to integrate sectoral policies and define principles for MSP and ICZM. It recognised that to foster the economic, environmental and social importance of the Portuguese marine area, there is a need to manage present and future uses of maritime space in close integration with coastal zone management. After 2011 the development of the POEM slowed.

In 2012 the government published the POEM documents on the DGPM website and characterised POEM as a “study on existing and future uses of the Portuguese maritime space” and eliminated any legal or regulatory authority (da Fonseca, 2016).

In 2012 the government started drafting a MSP Framework law; in 2014 the first Portuguese MSP framework law was promulgated. In 2015, Order No. 11494/2015 established the beginning of the preparation and development of the Situation Plan, the Portuguese marine spatial plan, defining the responsible authorities for preparation and support of the MSP process.