The Marine Act (Northern Ireland) 2013


The Marine Act (Northern Ireland) 2013 (any subsequent mention of the ‘Marine Act’ refers to the Marine Act (Northern Ireland) 2013) gained Royal Assent on 17 September 2013 and came into operation the following day. The implementation of the Marine Act will assist Northern Ireland in contributing to the overall aim of having clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas.


The Marine Act sets out a new framework for Northern Ireland’s seas based on: a system of marine planning that will balance conservation, energy and resource needs; improved management for marine nature conservation and the streamlining of marine licensing for some electricity projects.


The Marine Act applies to the Northern Ireland inshore region comprising of the territorial sea out to twelve nautical miles.  This area includes all the tidal rivers and sea loughs (including Lough Foyle and Carlingford Lough). 


The main provisions of the Act are outlined below:


Marine Planning

The Marine Act enables the Department of the Environment (DOE) to prepare a marine plan for the inshore region.  A marine plan will bring together information and policies on the multiple uses of the marine area, together with spatial and temporal data for the water column and the sea bed, using maps where appropriate.  As a strategic tool it will allow decisions to be made about the best use of the marine area, in order to maximise compatibility of activities and achieve sustainable development.


Go to the Northern Ireland Marine Plan page.


Nature Conservation

Part 3 of the Marine Act  enables the Department to designate areas as Marine Conservation Zones (MCZ).  These MCZs will be designated for the conservation of marine species and habitats, taking into account any economic, cultural or social consequences of doing so. Stakeholder engagement is an essential part of the designation process and the Department is required to publish guidance detailing the methodology for selection and designation of these sites.

The Act also allows the Department to make byelaws to protect MCZs, subject to consultation and publication procedures.

See Part 3 of the Marine Act (Northern Ireland) for further detail on the designation of MCZs.


Marine Licensing

Part 4 of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 introduced a new system of marine licensing which extended to Northern Ireland.

The 2009 Act allowed for the use of ‘special procedures’ in respect of certain electricity works in parts of the UK.  The Marine Act allows for the extension of these arrangements to Northern Ireland.

These special procedures will apply in situations where both a marine licence (from the Department of Environment) and a generating consent (from Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment) are required, and will allow for parallel consideration of applications for both types of consent.


Go to the DOE Marine Licensing page.


The following documents are available to download as pdf documents:


Download the Marine Act (Northern Ireland) 2013(264kb)

Download the Explanatory Notes for Marine Act (Northern Ireland) 2013(253kb)


April 2014