International North Sea

Cross-border use of the North Sea can be limited to just one neighbouring country but it can also be global. Every scale increase requires an appropriate level of Government action.

Container ship - International North SeaIn this way, in the context of IMO the Netherlands is participating globally in the regulation of marine shipping, while it is bilaterally harmonising the issuing of permits in the Eems-Dollard area with Germany. The fishing industry in the North Sea is almost a completely European activity. Europe makes the policy. The Member States can influence that policy. They must implement the agreed policy in their own legislation and regulations and also ensure it is enforced.

Boundary area with other EEZ countries

The existence of multiple sovereignties alongside each other on the continental shelf can also lead to interaction. Strictly speaking, use of the North Sea within a country’s own EEZ can be national; but in a border area with another EEZ, use of the North Sea may indeed have a cross-border external effect. For example, the construction of a wind farm right beside an area on the other side of the border that has been designated as a nature reserve.

International cooperation

Limiting the negative effects of use of the sea is largely organised internationally, regardless of the degree to which that use is cross-border. In addition to the frameworks that already exist for this in the Northeast-Atlantic area, such as OSPAR and the MSFD, there is now a need to structure cooperation – specifically for border areas – with neighbouring countries.

In recent years, the Netherlands has been drawing attention in a number of areas to common fundamental principles for spatial planning at sea – for example, with regard to distances between offshore wind farms and shipping routes as well as the possibility of connecting up the traffic separation scheme in the southern part of the North Sea.
Cooperation has been sought with North Sea countries on research into an international electricity grid in the North Sea which will be capable of linking offshore energy production by 2030. In the context of OSPAR, for example, methods are being developed to tackle the cumulative effects of use on the ecosystem.

The transition to sustainable offshore energy generation requires a great deal of space at sea and has consequences for many other policy areas such as the environment and the safety of shipping and other users (fishing boats, leisure craft). The sub-topics are being discussed in the most relevant consultation structure such as IMO, OSPAR or informal North Sea consultation so that the results can then be shared on a national level. In the context of the joint implementation of the Marine strategy in OSPAR, an interim report on the ecological quality of the North Sea is planned for 2018.