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    Red Diesel Abroad

    New UK–EU Relationship in 2021:

    Changes in effect as of 2300 hours UTC on 31 December 2020.

    You will have an obligation to report to UK Border Force when moving into and out of the UK by recreational boat.

    You should expect greater scrutiny and requirements to report on arrival and departure, when moving between the UK and the EU and/or the Schengen area by recreational boat. 

    As the future UK / EU relationship negotiations were still incomplete in mid December 2020 this information may be incomplete, and will be updated and amended as we learn more.

    If you are boating abroad and you find something is different or come across something new, please let us know by emailing 

    Marked ‘red’ diesel

    Until such time as the UK Government passes legislation which makes it unlawful to use marked ‘red’ diesel in private pleasure craft (which is expected to be the case from April 2022), individual boaters are not prohibited from using marked ‘red’ diesel in the UK or in international waters.  However it is possible that issues may still be experienced when boating in some EU Member States.  

    Current situation

    In spite of the UK having left the EU and being a contracting party to the 1990 Istanbul Convention, it is possible that the EU Member States that previously took issue with the UK’s continued use of red diesel in private pleasure craft may continue to do so. 

    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.


    Terms on which UK left EU

    The UK committed, through the legislation implementing the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, that the full range of EU laws and Court of Justice of the EU decisions existing at the point of departure from the EU would continue to apply. Therefore, the EU Marking Directive and the 2018 Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) decision confirming that the UK had not properly implemented the Directive continue to apply in the UK, for the time being at least. 

    1990 Istanbul Convention

    The UK is a contracting party to the 1990 Istanbul Convention. The Istanbul Convention was intended to facilitate temporary admission into signatory states by harmonising Customs procedures and, in particular, it allows a means of transport (together with the fuel contained in the normal fuel tanks of that means of transport) to be imported into a signatory state temporarily without payment of import duties and taxes and without application of import prohibitions or restrictions. Now that the UK has left the EU the 1990 Istanbul Convention should govern the movement of recreational vessels between the UK and the EU. 

    In order to rely on the Convention, a means of transport for private use must be registered in a territory other than that of temporary admission, in the name of a person established or resident in a territory other than that of temporary admission, and be imported and used by persons resident in such a territory. For these purposes, the EU27 are considered to be a single territory. 

    This means that UK recreational boaters may now be able to temporarily import fuel, that is bought legally elsewhere, into the EU provided:

    • the fuel is in the normal tanks of the vessel;
    • the boat is registered in the UK or another non-EU state;
    • the registered owner is established or resident in the UK or another non-EU state; and
    • the boat is imported and used by persons resident in the UK or another non-EU state. 

    Visiting EU Member States with marked ‘red’ diesel

    Although every individual member of the EU27 should recognise and apply the Istanbul Convention to qualifying vessels, there is no guarantee that they all will (or will do so consistently). 

    The Istanbul Convention sets out the rules that the signatory states are supposed to implement but it does not give individuals any right of action should a particular signatory state decline to implement part or all of the Convention – only another signatory state has that capacity.

    If you encounter any difficulties when using marked ‘red’ diesel abroad, the extent to which you will be able to rely on the Istanbul Convention will be determined by the national laws of the country in which the ‘offence’ has been committed. 

    If you encounter difficulties abroad

    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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