Red Diesel Abroad


Marked ‘red’ diesel

Although it remains legal to purchase marked ‘red’ diesel for propelling private pleasure craft in Great Britain (GB), it is now illegal in Northern Ireland to put marked (red) diesel into the tank of a private pleasure craft that supplies the engine that propels the craft. This is to ensure the UK meets its international obligations under the Northern Ireland Protocol of the Withdrawal Agreement.

As the UK is a contracting party to the 1990 Istanbul Convention GB 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. 


However, it is possible that issues may still be experienced when boating in some EU Member States.  

The RYA recommends that recreational boaters with marked 'red' diesel purchased in GB:

  • Keep receipts for diesel purchased in GB, to prove that it was bought in GB, 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 in the EU) and retain these receipts as well.

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 GB 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 27 EU Members States (EU27) are considered to be a single territory.  

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

Please let us know about any difficulties relating to marked 'red' diesel, you experience 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 RYA's work in this area