Red Diesel – do you know the dos and don’ts?

Make responsible choices at the pump.
27 Apr 23
Jet RIB on river, catamaran,

Heading into the new season, recreational boaters are reminded of their responsibility to ensure they make the correct declaration when purchasing red diesel. 

The RYA was delighted when it was announced in March 2021 that recreational boaters would retain the right to purchase red diesel at the waterside in Great Britain provided the full rate of duty was paid when purchasing fuel for the purposes of propulsion. Regrettably, in Northern Ireland recreational boaters did not receive the same benefit and are no longer able to use red diesel for propulsion.

An essential part of the new law in Great Britain (GB) is that recreational boaters buying red diesel must declare the per cent of fuel being used for either propulsion or for domestic usage. If you are purchasing red diesel, then there is always a possibility that HMRC will ask to see fuel receipts and evidence of usage.   

Retaining access to red diesel for recreational boaters at the waterside is an entitlement that should be valued to ensure supplies are available in the more remote ports and harbours. It is crucial that the processes in place are respected to ensure that it is not jeopardised.

Do not

Do not assume a split of 60% for propulsion and 40% for domestic use if this does not accurately reflect your intended use. 

If in Northern Ireland, do not put red diesel into the tank of a private pleasure craft for propulsion purposes. 


When buying diesel for your craft, do make a declaration to the supplier based on your intended use. 

Declare what percentage of the fuel will be used for propulsion (as opposed to domestic purposes such as heating or cooking). There is no fixed allowance for propulsion vs domestic purposes. 

If your primary residence is your boat, It will help to have documentation available which confirms this when buying fuel for domestic use.

If you are visiting Northern Ireland from GB, do retain receipts to show that the fuel was purchased in GB. 

Do always retain receipts when purchasing red diesel, especially when visiting other countries. It is also useful to log engine hours.

If you have any questions regarding the purchase and usage of red diesel, please visit the Cruising pages or email the RYA Cruising team.