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    Red Diesel Abroad

    UK leaving the EU: From 23:00 UTC on 31 January 2020 the UK is no longer a member of the EU. However, the UK and the EU ratified a withdrawal agreement, which means that we enter a transition period during which the Union law is applicable to and in the UK, except where otherwise stated in the withdrawal agreement. In reality this means that the EU will treat the UK as if it were a Member State, with the exception of UK participation in the EU institutions and governance structures. The UK remains in both the EU Customs Union and the Single Market for the duration of the transition period. Goods with Union status remain in free circulation and can therefore remain in the UK or the remaining 27 EU countries with no time limit. Freedom of movement will continue to apply to nationals of the UK during the transition period, so there will be no restriction on how long you can spend in the EU. In other words, although the UK has left the EU, in day to day life, nothing really changes for the duration of the transition period. 

    CJEU Ruling

    In October 2018, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland had failed to fulfil its obligations under Council Directive 95/60/EC on fiscal marking of gas oils and kerosene. The UK Government is now required to bring its practices into line with this ruling.

    Until the UK legislation is changed it remains legal to purchase marked 'red' diesel for use in pleasure craft in the UK, this is not the case in many other EU countries.

    Boaters should experience no change in respect of their use of marked 'red' diesel both in the UK and overseas until the UK Government makes changes to existing legislation. The RYA will be lobbying for any new legislation to include a transition period of sufficient length that recognises that changes will need to be made to the supply system and that the chemical marker and dye in marked diesel will be detectable in boat fuel systems for a considerable period of time after the commencement date of any change to the use of unmarked 'white' diesel.

    Boaters who have filled their tanks with marked 'red' diesel in the UK should be permitted to use this fuel elsewhere in the EU, but occasionally difficulties may be experienced. The following advice is provided to help you to minimise the risk of experiencing difficulties whilst boating elsewhere in the EU.

    Specific Advice for Belgium

    Please note this advice has NOT been updated since the CofJEU ruling was received in October 2018.

    On 26 September 2017 the RYA secured confirmation from the Belgian Ministry of Finance that controls in Belgium for red diesel remain suspended until further notice. [See update]

    It is unlawful in Belgium to use red diesel for propelling a private pleasure craft. Boating in Belgian waters with marked 'red' diesel in your fuel tanks put you at risk of receiving a fine (of €500 - €5000). This has been the case since the beginning of the 2010s.

    However the Belgian Government has now acknowledged that its approach is different to that of its near neighbours (France and the Netherlands). Belgian customs has therefore suspended all controls [for marked 'red' diesel in pleasure craft] until further notice. 

    It should however be noted that this is not a change to the Belgian legislation. It is simply a statement that the law will not be enforced in the short term. As a key stakeholder in this developing situation, we have been assured that the RYA will be notified if the situation in Belgium is to change. 

    In order to maintain a clear picture of this developing situation, we would urge anyone who is fined in Belgium for having red diesel in their tanks to email giving as much detail as possible.

    Specific Advice for the Netherlands

    Please note this advice has NOT been updated since the CofJEU ruling was received in October 2018.

    The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in London, has confirmed that the legislation (as detailed in the Customs October 2012 News Release), introduced in January 2013, applies to diesel purchased in the Netherlands but has no impact on visiting yachts that have red diesel in their main fuel tanks purchased legitimately outside the Netherlands. The official policy for the use of Red Diesel in the Netherlands remains as follows: 

    "You can fill up your tanks with red diesel, but not take more fuel with you than the amount [capacity] of your tanks. You have to be able to show the receipt, which can’t be older than 1 year old. On the receipt should be written that “the difference in tax between white and red diesel is paid by [to] the UK Government (the 60/40 notice)”. According to the Dutch Customs this should be on the receipt automatically [we take this to mean it must be printed not hand written]. If you keep to these points and can show the above mentioned papers and notes the Dutch Customs can’t fine you. 

    "The National Office Customs Administration of the Netherlands is aware that the Regional Custom Offices are not always dealing in according to this policy and have made the National Policy clear, once again, to all the Regional Offices. The National Office has made it clear to us that if you still would get a Fine, they only can investigate this on an individual basis and advise that in that case you keep all the paperwork."

    We recommend that people anticipate being stopped in the Netherlands and follow the advice at the bottom of this page, noting that additionally fuel receipts should be dated within the last 12 months. 

    If members do experience difficulties with the authorities in the Netherlands first hand then we ask them to send us a detailed report (including the relevant paperwork).  

    Specific Advice for France

    Please note this advice has NOT been updated since the CofJEU ruling was received in October 2018.

    The Customs Attaché of the French Embassy in London has confirmed that:

    1. If the owner is a British resident and the vessel is in French waters on a temporary basis (holiday), the vessel may arrive in France with red diesel in its tank, refuel with correctly taxed diesel during its stay in France and return to Great Britain without a problem.  

    2. If the vessel is to remain in France for an extended stay, invoices for diesel purchases should be retained for three years to demonstrate that duty paid fuel has been purchased since the boat’s arrival in France. Your fuel invoices, should be kept on board to demonstrate you have acted in good faith, should your boat’s fuel be subject to inspection.  

    You should however be aware that it is prohibited to purchase rebated diesel for recreational boating in France.

    January 2018 Note: The RYA has received information which suggests that the French Authorities may be reviewing their stance on red diesel.

    Specific Advice for Ireland

    In October 2018, the Court of Justice of the European Union also ruled that Ireland's arrangements for the sale of marked 'green' diesel (known there as Marked Gas Oil (MGO)) breached both the Energy Tax Directive and the Fuel Marking Directive. As a result, Ireland introduced amendments to excise law in Finance Bill 2019 and the law regarding the use of MGO for private pleasure navigation changed on 1 January 2020.

    The use of MGO for private pleasure navigation is now prohibited and private pleasure craft owners should only purchase and use auto diesel as fuel for private pleasure navigation.

    General advice for boaters visiting EU member states

    The RYA recommends that recreational boaters with marked 'red' diesel purchased in the UK:-

    • Keep receipts for diesel purchased in the UK, to prove that it was bought in the UK, and request that your retailer marks them "duty paid". 
    • Log the date of refuelling and engine hours to reinforce these records; and
    • Do not carry marked diesel anywhere other than in their craft's main fuel storage tanks. 

    Buying diesel Abroad

    Do not purchase marked diesel in a country where the purchasing of rebated fuel by leisure craft is prohibited by law.

    It is important to fill up with the correct fuel whilst abroad (e.g. it is generally not legal to buy marked diesel for use in pleasure craft elsewhere in the EU) and retain these receipts as well.

    If you encounter difficulties abroad

    By following this advice, boaters should minimise the likelihood of experiencing difficulties whilst cruising other countries in the EU. If you experience difficulties relating to marked 'red' diesel, first hand, please send us a detailed report (including copies of any paperwork) to or telephone 023 8060 4232.

    Related pages

    Buying diesel

    Read more about the history of red diesel

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