NestStep is a parallel programming language for the BSP (bulk-hronous parallel) programming model. In this article we describe the concept of distributed shared arrays in NestStep and its implementation on top of MPI. In particular, we present a novel method for runtime scheduling of irregular, direct remote accesses to sections of distributed shared arrays. Our method, which is fully parallelized, uses conventional two-sided message passing and thus avoids the overhead of a standard implementation of direct remote memory access based on one-sided communication. The main prerequisite is that the given program is structured in a BSP-compliant way. Copyright © 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.