Shelf and coastal sea processes extend from the atmosphere through the water column and into the seabed. These processes reflect intimate interactions between physical, chemical, and biological states on multiple scales. As a consequence, coastal system modelling requires a high and flexible degree of process and domain integration; this has so far hardly been achieved by current model systems. The lack of modularity and flexibility in integrated models hinders the exchange of data and model components and has historically imposed the supremacy of specific physical driver models. We present the Modular System for Shelves and Coasts (MOSSCO; http://www.mossco.de), a novel domain and process coupling system tailored but not limited to the coupling challenges of and applications in the coastal ocean. MOSSCO builds on the Earth System Modeling Framework (ESMF) and on the Framework for Aquatic Biogeochemical Models (FABM). It goes beyond existing technologies by creating a unique level of modularity in both domain and process coupling, including a clear separation of component and basic model interfaces, flexible scheduling of several tens of models, and facilitation of iterative development at the lab and the station and on the coastal ocean scale. MOSSCO is rich in metadata and its concepts are also applicable outside the coastal domain. For coastal modelling, it contains dozens of example coupling configurations and tested set-ups for coupled applications. Thus, MOSSCO addresses the technology needs of a growing marine coastal Earth system community that encompasses very different disciplines, numerical tools, and research questions.