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Red Diesel Abroad

UK leaving the EU: The UK has triggered Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, which provides a mechanism for the voluntary and unilateral withdrawal of a country from the EU, and is now negotiating the arrangements for its withdrawal from the EU. Until the UK's withdrawal negotiations are complete, in terms of the advice regarding boating abroad on the RYA website, UK residents remain EU residents, the UK remains in the EU for VAT, Customs and Excise purposes and there should be little noticeable difference when sailing between the UK and other EU countries. 

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 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 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 marker dye in red 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 white diesel.

Boaters who have filled their tanks with 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.

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

Specific Advice for Boaters visiting Belgium:-

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 this decade.

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 Boaters visiting Netherlands:-

The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in London, has confirmed that the new 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 then 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."

Specific Advice for Boaters visiting France:-

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.

Advice for boaters visiting other EU member states:-

The RYA recommends that recreational boaters visiting other EU member states:-

  • 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". 
  • You should also log the date of refuelling and engine hours to reinforce these records;
  • Do not carry red diesel anywhere other than in their craft's main fuel storage tanks; and
  • Do not purchase red diesel in a country where the purchasing of rebated fuel by leisure craft is prohibited by law

If you still have questions or you have any difficulties with red diesel abroad please contact us at or telephone 023 8060 4232.

Related pages

Buying diesel

Read more about the history of red diesel

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