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 principles of better regulation and aim to be transparent, accountable, proportionate, consistent and targeted in all actions.

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

The type of activities that could require a marine licence in Northern Ireland include:

Construction and removal

  • mooring
  • harbours
  • marinas
  • jetties
  • piers
  • sea outfalls
  • scour protection
  • rock armouring
  • beach replenishment
  • land reclamation
  • removal of objects from the seabed


Navigational and capital dredging of ports, harbours and marinas.

Sea disposal

Disposal of dredged material (maintenance dredging and capital dredging). The only materials that may be licensed for disposal from vessels are fish processing waste and dredged material that has been demonstrated to be free of contamination.

This list is not exhaustive so please contact the Marine Licensing branch before an application is submitted.

Protected areas

Where a proposal involves a plan, project or policy with potential to affect an area that contributed to the UK national site network (formally Natura 2000*) sites such as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) or Special Protection Area (SPA) - the appointed competent authority is legally obliged to carry out a Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA), taking into account any advice given by DAERA.

* SACs and SPAs in the UK no longer form part of the EU’s Natura 2000 network. Instead, they contribute to a UK national site network on land and at sea, including both the inshore and offshore marine areas. UK Government Ministers have confirmed that the UK’s former Natura 2000 sites in the national site network will continue to be the UK’s contribution to the Emerald Network.

An HRA is a tool put in place to ensure that a project, plan or policy will not have an adverse effect on the integrity of any SACs and SPAs sites and must be carried out if there is any potential for the designated site to be affected. The outcome of the assessment is the responsibility of the competent authority.

If you need advice on how to carry out this process, please contact Marine and Fisheries Division.

Where a proposed operation might affect an Area of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI), the landowner or occupier must apply for consent or assent under the Environment Order. For coastal sites, these applications are dealt with jointly by Marine and Fisheries Division and NIEA.

Where a site is designated both as a SAC and/or SPA site and as an ASSI, both types of permission will be necessary. You may need to apply for planning permission for construction in coastal areas.

Marine historic assets

In determining an application DAERA must have regard to ‘the need to protect the environment’ which is defined in section 115(2) of the 2009 Act as inclusive of ‘any site (including any site comprising, or comprising the remains of, any vessel, aircraft or marine structure) which is of historic or archaeological interest.’ The Marine Policy Statement is also clear that an absence of designation should not be taken to imply that undesignated heritage assets are of lesser significance.

Developers may have to supply additional information to enable DAERA to make an informed decision. In practice, this may involve a heritage impact assessment particularly where the potential for impacts on historic assets is considered high. The level of assessment should be proportionate to the scale and impact of the project as well as the sensitivity of the environment concerned. In large-scale projects, this information will normally be part of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

DAERA will consult with Department for Communities (DfC) Historic Environment Division (HED) about archaeological sites in the intertidal zone, submarine sites and protected sites. HED’s advice will favour preservation of historic assets in situ within an appropriate setting. If a marine licence is granted, DAERA may place conditions on it so that adverse impacts on historic assets are avoided or mitigated and reduced. If proposals include work on a scheduled or protected site, the relevant consent will also be required from HED.

Information about marine historic assets can be found in the Historic Environment Record of Northern Ireland (HERoNI) and on the Historic Environment Map Viewer and Marine Map Viewer.

For further explanation about the importance of the historic environment and best practice development see the JNAPC Code of Practice for Seabed Developers.

Applying for a licence

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


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



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.

Back to top