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Sailors to be Considered in UK Pleasure Craft Red Diesel Ban

Does the proposed red diesel ban float your boat?

The rules and regulations surrounding the use of red diesel in UK boats have been under scrutiny for several years. We’re all patiently waiting in anticipation of the outcome, but in the meantime, we thought we should discuss recent developments and where we’re currently at, including sailors being consulted about the planned red diesel ban and Brussel’s recent decision to continue to allow sailors to use red diesel with the full 100% duty.

The timeline

  • 2021 Budget – Chancellor Rishi Sunak revealed that sailors will remain able to use red diesel in their vessels.
  • 2020 Budget – Announced a wider reform to red diesel, with a consultation period that ran from 9 July 2020 to 1st October 2020.
  • 09.09.19 – The Government consulted on how it proposed to implement the court judgement by requiring private pleasure craft to use white diesel for propulsion. The consultation closed on 9 September 2019 and sought evidence of the impact this would have on diesel-propelled craft users and the companies that supply diesel to them.
  • 05.03.19 – UK pleasure crafts permitted to use red diesel in Belgium throughout 2019
  • 26.02.19 – Sailors to be consulted in red diesel ban
  • 31.10.08 – The UK was found to be non-compliant with the EU Fuel Directive (the CJEU ruled that the use of red diesel to power private pleasure craft breached the Fuel Marker Directive). Following the UK’s departure from the UK, we’ve now entered a transition period which is in place until 31 December 2020. During this time, we are obliged to apply the judgement or risk huge fines.

The story so far…

31.10.18 – UK non-compliant with the EU Fuel Directive

Since 2008, UK private pleasure craft, such as motorboats, sailboats and yachts, have been permitted to use marked diesel (also known as red diesel and gas oil) as long as they pay the correct amount of duty.

But the European Union has long been contesting the UK’s practical solution to the widespread use of marine red diesel and referred the UK to the European Courts of Justice (ECJ), stating that the UK was “not properly applying” European excise rules.

Boats Moored at Harbour
Yacht Out at Sea

What does EU legislation state?

EU regulations require fuel to be marked with a dye if it’s sold at less than the full tax price. Although commercial craft can benefit from fuel subject to a lower tax rate, pleasure craft must use fuel that is subject to a standard rate. The majority of marinas retail red diesel on a 60/40 split of full and lower tax rates for propulsion, and heating or power generation in the UK.

A ruling in October 2018 found that the UK was non-compliant with the EU Fuel Directive by enabling leisure vessels to use marked diesel. The EU claimed this practice meant the UK was failing to fulfil its obligations under Council Directive 96/60/EC of 27 November 1995 on fiscal marking of gas oils and kerosene (OJ 1995 L 291, p.46).

Its judgement states: “that by allowing the use of marked fuel for the purposes of propelling private pleasure craft, even where that fuel is not subject for any exemption from or reduction in excise duty, the United Kingdom has failed to fulfil its obligations… on fiscal marking of gas oils and kerosene”.

HMRC failed to defend its position in the European Courts of Justice Case 503/17, so although the UK remains subject to the Fuel Marker Directive, it must ensure its practices are in line with the ruling. Red diesel will remain to be used for heating onboard as it’s taxed at a lower rate.

26.02.19 – Sailors to be consulted in red diesel ban

In a February 2019 post, the UK-based magazine Yachting Monthly reported on the UK government’s intention to investigate the impact of a ban on marked diesel used to solely power UK pleasure craft. Sailors will be consulted so they can have their say on the matter, allowing their responses to be used to help decide how and when the ban will be put in place.

As of yet, a date for when the use of red diesel will be replaced with white diesel for the propulsion of UK pleasure boats remains undecided.

The HMRC’s argument against the ban, which centred around ending the use of red diesel being impracticable, was rejected by the European Court of Justice.

HMRC’s concerns are shared by several prominent sailing organisations including British Marine, who claim that there are a range of reasons why using white diesel in pleasure craft simply isn’t feasible. This is due to the uneconomical and unreasonable costs associated with refitting waterside fuelling stations for white diesel use, in addition to the significant environmental impact and numerous health and safety concerns.

The Irish Sailing Association has also voiced its concerns about the ban, pointing out that the lack of existing infrastructure for the dispensing of white diesel on Ireland’s southeast and west coasts will likely lead to boats running out of fuel. These risks to life and the additional strain on emergency services could in turn lead to fewer boats attempting the trip.

05.03.19 – UK pleasure crafts permitted to use red diesel in Belgium throughout 2019

The Cruising Association has released a statement announcing that Belgian authorities will maintain the agreement for UK pleasure vessels sailing to Belgium. Boats will still have to use British-marked diesel in engine fuel tanks for propulsion, with the full 100% duty for 2019.

If anything changes, they will consult the Regulations and Technical Services Group with plenty of notice.

The conditions are the same as before, in that all diesel purchased before departure from the UK to Belgium, or other EU maritime States’ marinas and ports, must pay the full 100% duty (and not any lower duty rate) on all the fuel and that it is recorded on the signed invoice for the purchase. This invoice must be on board the vessel (such as with the boat’s log) in the unlikely event any inspecting Customs official should wish to see it as proof of the duty payment.” – Cruising Association Press Release.

09.09.19 – Consultation closes on 9 September 2019

The government plans to end the scheme introduced in 2008 that allowed users of diesel-powered private pleasure crafts to purchase red diesel and pay the duty differential between red diesel and white diesel on the fuel used for propulsion. It aims to remove the right of operators of such craft to use red diesel for propulsion and dictate the use of white diesel.

The consultation discussed how the government plans to implement the judgement by requiring private pleasure craft to use white diesel for propulsion and looked at evidence regarding the effect this will have on diesel-propelled craft users. The responses are being collated to help determine whether a period of adjustment will be needed to enable suppliers (Registered Dealers in Controlled Oils, RDCOs) and diesel users to adapt to using only derv for propulsion of private pleasure craft, and if needed, how long they will need.

Budget 2020

This announced a larger reform to red diesel with a consultation period which ended on 1st October. The proposed revisions will prohibit the rebates that apply to diesel, biodiesel and bio blend that are not used for road vehicles on the fuel used for propelling private pleasure craft.

For more information, visit the website.

The problems of using white diesel in pleasure crafts

The proposal for pleasure crafts to use white diesel over red diesel for propulsion has caused a commotion as diesel is somewhat useless in water, increasing the risk of diesel fuel contamination and consequently engine breakages.

Modern white diesel formulations have seen an increase in Fatty Acid Methyl Esther (FAME) content and a decrease in sulphur content.

FAME is a first-generation biofuel and is susceptible to poor cold temperature performance, cold filter plugging and poor storage longevity due to the potential for water and biological attacks. This means there’s a much higher chance of diesel contamination and tank corrosion, both of which are a huge inconvenience for pleasure craft owners.

When water is present in diesel – something which of course is not uncommon in pleasure crafts – bugs grow at the interface between the water and the fuel and form large puddles at the bottom of the tank, separating from the oil above. This can cause blocked filters, worn injectors, engine failure and corroded tanks – all of which are a costly and inconvenient consequence.

HVO fuel: a white diesel alternative for pleasure craft

HVO is a second-generation biofuel that has none of the above problems thanks to being synthetically produced through the hydrotreatment of renewable and sustainable materials, making it almost chemically identical to white diesel, whilst having none of the same issues.

HVO can be used as a drop-in replacement for white diesel and has been approved by a large number of OEMs including Volvo and Penta. It has a much longer shelf life than regular derv and can be stored for up to 10 years, so long as it’s stored safely and in a well-maintained tank. Please note, that it’s still advised to keep an eye on the condition of HVO throughout its lifecycle.

Regular diesel only has a shelf life of around a year due to its vulnerability to bacterial attack which increases the likelihood of contamination.

The highly controlled production process used to produce HVO fuel means that it burns more efficiently and consistently, and provides cleaner combustion. This reduces soot in engines and exhaust systems, reduces emissions and offers more efficient burning than traditional biodiesel and mineral diesel.

To learn more about how you can use HVO fuel in your pleasure craft, get in touch with our HVO fuel experts today on 0330 123 1444

What impact is Brexit likely to have on the use of red diesel in pleasure craft vehicles?

The impact of the recent European Court of Justice ruling on UK-marked diesel is unclear but will be limited to UK waters, remaining illegal for UK boats to fill their tanks with red diesel in EU waters. If your marina or port consents, you will be able to use white diesel.

Whatever the outcome, we will continue to campaign for cruising yachtsmen to be able to travel between companies without being penalised for buying a fuel which is very often the only option available.” – The Cruising Association (CA) president, Judith Grimwade.

A spokesman from the CA’s Regulator & Technical Service (RATS) Committee added: “One thing that seems obvious is that cruising sailors are likely to be faced with additional bureaucracy and strong enforcement of existing rules and regulations, although the EU has announced an intention to bring this in over a transit period of six to nine months. You could well be stopped more frequently and checked by local officials.

If you’d like to learn more about marine red diesel or would simply like to place an order, call our specialist fuels team today on 0330 123 1444 or fill in our quote form.

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