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Red Diesel Debacle

Thursday 5 April 2012
It seems that the rules on using red diesel in British yachts are changing each week in what is a very fluid situation.

Last week's budget confirmed the government's policy that British recreational craft can continue to use red diesel. The reason for this was mainly on safety grounds because a third of diesel suppliers would not have stocked both types of diesel. This would have made areas like Scotland with less recreational owners red diesel only and it would be unsafe to transport the amount required in owner's cars.

The HMRC has confirmed that it is lawful to use red diesel (with duty paid) purchased in the UK in international waters (contrary to a ministerial statement statement on 20th February where they said it would be made illegal). The HMRC is hoping that it can persuade the EU to remove the infraction proceedings that it initiated in the summer.

The confusion now occurs when British yachts visit foreign ports or even just sail through their waters. Even if a yacht visiting from the UK was somehow to have absolutely no red diesel it it's tanks (a practice which could be viewed as unsafe) traces of red dye would still remain on the walls of the tank rendering the yacht liable to prosecution by local authorities. It is difficult to see how a yacht can legally sail from the UK to the continent.

In practice most EU countries seem to be sympathetic to UK boaters and are not fining them for having traces of red diesel in their tanks. The exception to this is Belgium where a handful of UK sailors with red diesel in their tanks are being fined (even if they can show a receipt to say the fuel was purchased in the Uk and has duty paid on it).

Interestingly Irish boat owners are not being fined in Belgium because their fuel is marked green and not red.

A petition is available on the UK government website.

Note: This situation is far from clear and is constantly changing. This blog post does not constitute advice. If you require advice please contact your local tax office (good luck!).