When thinking about the legal use of red diesel, or gasoil, as it’s also known, what comes to mind? Agricultural vehicles are probably the first category that occurs to most people, but a lesser-known instance is in private pleasure boats and yachts, provided that duty is paid on 60 per cent of the fuel purchased.

In many EU states, marine use of gasoil is banned, and since 2014 the topic has become a legal tug-of-war between the European Commission (EC) and the UK government. What does this mean for UK citizens who use red diesel for pleasure boating, especially when sailing to another EU member state?

What’s the Problem?

The EC raised concerns with the UK government back in 2013 that private pleasure-boat owners may not pay the right amount of tax due on marine red diesel. This amounted to an infringement of the EU Marking Directive, according to the EC, with the UK failing to properly apply the law on fiscal markings on fuel. The EC referred the case to the European Court of Justice in 2014.
The UK government argues that, given that marine gasoil must be duty-paid, the EC’s point of contention is merely the use of ‘fiscal marking’, or dye, in the fuel. Illicit diesel use is uncovered using tests that can detect gasoil even if it has been added to regular white diesel in concentrations as low as 0.3ppm.
Therefore, if a switch to white diesel were made, gasoil traces could test positive unless a full replacement of fuel tanks and piping was carried out, which could cost up to £100,000 per vessel.

Possibility of Exemptions

Belgium has the strictest rules on carrying gasoil, but it granted an exemption for private British boats for some of 2014 and 2015. Other EU states don’t have exemptions, and there have been cases of prosecutions, albeit very rarely.
Boaters are advised to carry receipts for gasoil purchased in the UK and ensure that the retailer stamps them with ‘duty paid’. To cover all bases, it is also advisable to log engine hours and refuelling dates. Additionally, when travelling abroad, ensure that all gasoil on board is in the main storage tank.
We provide gasoil for a variety of purposes, along with a range of other heating oil products. Check our blog archive for more helpful information on the law regarding red diesel.