Your own edition?

On this page you will learn about:

  • The opportunity to create your own edition of MSP Challenge with the simulation platform
  • Which geo data layers you would at least need for your own edition
  • What other data you would need for the background simulations

About new editions

An important function of the MSP Challenge simulation platform is enabling the development of different MSP Challenge editions, e.g. a North Sea edition or Baltic Sea edition. These editions revolve around a particular sea basin, incorporating different real-life (geo) data and simulations to allow users to experience MSP within that sea region.

This means that the platform is ready to host any sea basin in the world. While that might suggest that it's quick and easy to set up a new edition, it does require technical expertise, and there are a number of requirements that need to be met. This page offers information about those requirements so you can get an idea of what's involved.

In technical terms, creating a new edition equals creating a new, working configuration file using the Configuration Editor. Of course, the configuration file, in turn, requires access to other files (notably geo data layers) and software (notably your desired background simulators), which are further explained on this page.

Note that the requirements below are based on the assumption that you would want an edition that is more or less the same in data and functionalities as the existing North Sea or Baltic Sea editions. Of course, that assumption might not be correct. The simulation platform can incorporate any geo dataset (vector or raster) that fits common GIS standards, including datasets that aren't used in the North or Baltic Sea editions at all. Moreover, the current shipping, energy, and ecosystem simulations are interchangeable, as they are separate stand-alone applications. We are looking forward to researching and developing interconnections with other (kinds of) simulators too.

At this point, it's also important to recall that the entire simulation platform is distributed under the GPLv3 open-source license. As creating and enabling the use of a new edition are key characteristics of the platform, that new edition itself automatically falls under the same license. Thus we expect users to share the edition they created with the community so they may also use it, as per the terms of the license.

Too daunting? Get in touch and work with us, contact us via

Base geo data layers

In order to have a meaningful edition of the MSP Challenge Simulation Platform, you need relevant geodata to feed the platform. You can, obviously, always refer to the list of data layers used in the existing editions, here we state the really minimal list of layers for simple set-up. Needless to say that the relevance of each layer may vary depending on the characteristics of the region, for instance, if like in the Clyde Marine Region, there is no potential to generate green energy you don't need to add layers for wind speed and so on.

Main category Sub-categorie Layer
Management Governance Countries
Territorial Waters
Environmental conditions Bathymetry
Wind Speed
Wave Height
Currents speed
Activities Cables and pipelines Telecom cables
Energy Cables
Energy Wind Farms
Wave Farms
Tidal Farms
Oil & Gas Installations
Shipping IMO Routes
Shipping Intensity (global or customized per relevant type of vessels)
Fishing Relevant fleets fishing intensity
Ecology Protected Areas Marine Protected Areas

All data layers (shapefiles or GeoTIFF ) need to be added in the GeoServer in a dedicated folder, contact us ( for more details.

We advise you to use the following name convention for the data layers: '"RA_layer_name" in which RA is the abreviation or the region's name, eg. NS_Natura_2000 is the layer with the Natura 2000 sites for the North Sea region.

Data for background simulations


Our current energy simulator requires geo data on the existing energy infrastructure in the region. This means that if you want to create a new edition and use the default energy simulator, you'll need to figure out two things:

  1. Which energy sources should be connected to the energy simulator? The simulator can handle different kinds of sources: wind farms, wave/tidal energy producers, ... Technically you could even connect the oil & gas installations to the energy simulator, though that would be a bit more difficult as you'd need to model the energy production yourself. For wind farms we currently uphold a very simple energy production model: 6 MW per square kilometer.
  2. Which energy-related geo datasets are available and can be integrated? The simulator needs not only sources but also end/destination points and the connections in-between. In the case of wind farms, this means the actual wind farm area itself, the 'landing station' or landfall point or socket on land, and the cables between them. Assuming your region already has any of the energy infrastructure you are interested in, you'll need to have access to that geodata.

If you have answered and solved the above, then you are in good shape to use the energy simulator in your edition. Having said that, even if you have no energy geo datasets whatsoever, you could still use the energy simulator, provided you still offer users/players the data layers to draw new energy infrastructure with (which would in that case be completely empty at the start). Either way, the data layers need to be added to a new configuration file and connected to the energy simulator using the Configuration Editor.


Our current shipping simulator requires a region-specific origin-destination matrix as input data. This means that if you want to create a new edition and use the default shipping simulator, you'll need to put together a big spreadsheet. This spreadsheet should provide the actual number of ships of different types that during a particular month (ideally) or year (if easier) in the recent past went from one particular port or gate to another particular port or gate in that region.

You would actually need to have multiple worksheets within your spreadsheet, one for each ship type (cargo, tanker, passenger, ...).

Each worksheet should end up looking something like this:

Cargo vessels in January 2016 (data completely made up, just an example!)
horizontal >> origin

vertical: destination

Rotterdam Antwerp Hamburg Gate: Strait of




...etc ...etc
Rotterdam - 14 12 95 100 ... ...
Antwerp 20 - 17 93 98 ... ...
Hamburg 15 17 - 100 83 ... ...
Gate: Strait of Dover/Calais 101 102 103 - 99 ... ...
Gate: Skagerrak 85 75 121 200 - ... ...
...etc ... ... ... ... ... - ...
...etc ... ... ... ... ... ... -

Of course the question then remains: where is this data? Our experience with the NorthSEE and Baltic LINes projects tells us that there is often no quick and easy answer to that question. These are the scenarios we have come across:

  1. There was a project in the recent past in which such data was either partially or completely recreated. If so, then the next questions are: are you allowed to obtain and reuse that data for this purpose, and if so, in what format can you get it, who actually has it, and is the data still reasonably accurate or is it outdated?
  2. There is interest in generating the matrix from real AIS data. If so, then the next questions are: who has the resources and expertise to do this, or how can the resources and expertise be otherwise obtained? Know that certain parts of an AIS dataset can be unreliable or unusable. Also know that organisations such as EMODnet and HELCOM have conducted or commissioned similar kinds of work in the past. There are also scientific publications and reports about this, and programming code developed for this or something similar has been shared. Long story short: it's not easy. You might want to get in touch with experts from these organizations and their subcontractors.
  3. There is no need for highly realistic data, so a simplified, rough and incomplete dataset will do. If so, then you might just want to create the data by hand. Spend a couple of days or weeks making a shortlist of biggest ports in your region and put them horizontally and vertically in your spreadsheet. Use for that, for example. Then try to find out what kinds of traffic these ports tend to handle the most. Keep it simple, stick to e.g. cargo and tanker vessels only. Then try to figure out how many vessels the bigger and the smaller ports tend to handle per month (ballpark estimates), and fill in your spreadsheet from there. At least you'll have a working shipping simulation responding to users'/players' plans. It's better than nothing.

Once you have an origin-destination matrix, you will still need to do quite some work. But at least you have the data, so that main requirement has been met. To make the paths of ships generated by the simulator a bit more accurate, you'll also need to have geo datasets concerning e.g. IMO shipping lanes/infrastructure or no-shipping zones. The origin-destination matrix and data layers will need to be added to a configuration file and connected to the shipping simulator using the Configuration Editor.

Ecosystem (using Ecopath-with-Ecosim)

The ecosystem simulation generaly requires the pre-existence of a balanced, peer reviewed EwE (Ecopath with Ecosim) model that is representative of the study region. Such models require a lot of information about the relevant species or the area, their interaction with each other, as well as fisheries (historical) data, and are usually built over a period of 1 to 3 years by experts. It is also desirable that the model as an ecospace component (distribution of species and fisheries in a spatial model).

From that you can imagine that building such a model is very time consuming and requires a lot of resources.

If you are not sure if there is a EwE model of your study region, a good starting point is to check in ecobase . The Ecopath with Ecosim community is small and well connected, our experience with them has been great and they have helped us finding subject matter experts for the projects we worked in. So do get in touch if you have a project.

The EwE model chosen (or built) needs to be simplified to be used in connection to the MSP Challenge Simulation Platform, you can see the guidelines for such a task here.