Marine Licensing

The overall objective of marine licensing is to regulate sustainable development in a cohesive and fair manner.

Marine Licensing Legislation

Marine and Fisheries Division carries out licensing and enforcement functions in Northern Ireland territorial waters, under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 (MCAA) Part 4. They follow the Marine Licensing Operating Principles.

In determining marine licence applications, Marine and Fisheries Division has regard to the following:

  • the need to protect the environment
  • the need to protect human health
  • the need to prevent interference with legitimate uses of the sea
  • the effects of any use intended to be made of the works when constructed

Current marine licensing legislation applies to the Northern Ireland inshore region and allows sensible and necessary development to go ahead in a manner that minimises adverse impacts on the environment, human health and users of the sea. Licensable activities are detailed in Part 4 of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009.


Exemptions provide proportionate regulation of the marine environment. They remove the need for a marine licence for certain activities in certain circumstances.

If you intend to rely on an exemption you must make sure that you meet the relevant qualifying criteria and conditions. You might also need to notify the licensing authority about your activities.

Enforcement action may be taken if it is later determined that the activity, or the circumstances in which it was carried out, is not consistent with the terms of the relevant exemption.

Please see the Marine Licensing (Exempted Activities) Order (Northern Ireland) 2011 page on, and our Northern Ireland guidance exemptions to marine licensing, under part 4 of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 page.

Applying for a Licence

Before filling in the appropriate application form, please read the supporting guidance information.


Marine Licensing fees have been updated. The new fees are applicable from the 1 April 2023. 


For all forms relevant to the marine licensing process please visit the Marine Licensing Application Forms page.


Title Description Guidance
Environmental Guidance for Ports and Harbours Guidance on environmental obligations for Ports and Harbours Environmental Guidance for Ports and Harbours


Legislation surrounding exemptions and what constitutes an exempt activity Northern Ireland guidance - exemptions to marine licensing, under part 4 of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009
Overview and process Procedures and legislation governing marine licensing Northern Ireland guidance - overview and process, under part 4 of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009
Construction (including renewables) removals Background to marine construction licence determination and licensing of
renewable technologies
Northern Ireland guidance - construction (including renewables) and removals, under Part 4 of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009
Dredging, disposal and aggregate dredging Information on marine dredging licences, sea disposal licences and dredging for
Northern Ireland guidance - dredging, disposal and aggregate dredging, under Part 4 of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009
Emergency and high risk works Information on the issue of emergency/high risk marine licences Northern Ireland guidance - emergency and high risk works, under Part 4 of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Information on requirements of EIA in marine licensing Northern Ireland guidance - Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), under Part 4 of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009
Enforcement Information on enforcement with regards to marine licensing

Marine licensing guidance – Enforcement under Part 4, Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009

Guidance Note: For the Discovery of Unanticipated Underwater Archaeological Heritage This Guidance Note sets out best practice and legal responsibilities in the reporting of unanticipated finds of archaeological interest made during the course of marine construction and/or dredging projects where there are no project specific planning and/or marine license conditions pertaining to archaeology. Guidance Note: For the Discovery of Unanticipated Underwater Archaeological Heritage

Your application will be evaluated through a statutory consultation process with a number of consultees whom the Department considers relevant, and also a public consultation process through which members of the public may request information or provide comments.

Tacit consent does not apply. It is in the public interest that the authority must process your application before it can be granted.

Depending on the complexity of your application, it will be processed within four months from receipt of a completed application which includes all relevant information and associated material and correct fee.

A register of licensing information is available for inspection at all reasonable times by members of the public free of charge. This register is available to view by contacting Marine and Fisheries Division.

Appeals Procedure

When an application has been refused or granted subject to conditions (under section 71 of the Act), or a notice has been issued by the licensing authority to vary, suspend or revoke a marine licence (under section 72 of the Act), or an enforcement notice been issued; the applicant, may by notice, appeal to the Water Appeals Commission.

Offshore Wind and Marine Renewable Energy in Northern Ireland

In 2009, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment published the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of offshore Wind and Marine Renewable Energy in Northern Ireland. This SEA aimed to assess the effect of the development of offshore wind and marine renewable energy technology on Northern Ireland’s coastal and marine environment. Regional guidance was then developed to provide direction to key stakeholders on the development of offshore renewable energy projects within Northern Ireland territorial waters (out to 12 nautical miles).

In October 2012 several areas of Northern Ireland territorial waters were awarded Exclusivity Agreements to assess the potential for the development of offshore and marine renewable projects.

DAERA Marine Licensing branch is committed to assessing the development of any offshore renewable energy projects, within Northern Ireland’s marine environment, in a transparent and balanced manner. It will also provide applicants with sufficient guidance and advice throughout the lifetime of the project and ensure that the application process is as streamlined and efficient as possible.

In addition to this, DAERA Marine Licensing branch will assist in facilitating engagement between all relevant parties and statutory authorities in relation to specific requirements. Furthermore, applicants will receive full support in the development of any project application and the development of any mandatory information required by the DAERA Marine Licensing authority, such as Environmental Impact Assessments.

For further information, please contact the Marine Licensing branch.

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