As part of the Spring Budget announcement, the UK Government stated that it is not changing the treatment of private pleasure craft in Great Britain. They will continue to be able to use red diesel and pay their fuel supplier the difference between the red diesel rate and the white diesel rate on the proportion they intend to use for propulsion. However, in Northern Ireland recreational boaters will no longer be able to use red diesel for propelling their craft and will need to use white diesel from June onwards.

The government response to the consultation outlines: “In Northern Ireland, private pleasure craft users will no longer be able to use red diesel for propelling their craft. This will achieve consistency with the 2018 judgment by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) and ensure the UK meets its international obligations under the Northern Ireland Protocol of the Withdrawal Agreement. “It will also align with fuel used by private pleasure craft in the Republic of Ireland, which should make it simpler for private pleasure craft users to access the fuel they need if they sail between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland (and vice versa).”

The RYA Northern Ireland, is seeking clarity on these changes.  Richard Honeyford, Chief Operating Office for RYA Northern Ireland, explains: “While the rationale to keep private pleasure craft in line with commercial entitlements has been taken in Great Britain, the same rationale does not appear to have been applied in Northern Ireland.

“This will provide a number of immediate challenges across both inland and coastal waterways, where there is little or no waterside infrastructure currently in place in order to supply white diesel to recreational craft. At the moment, there are pumps for red diesel; to change this will take time and expense in order  to develop an adequate and accessible supply within the given timeframes.”

He adds: “RYA Northern Ireland is also asking for clarification on how the new rules may be regulated.  We welcome some indications on how HMRC would view any ‘run off’ of red diesel in tanks. With current lockdown restrictions, many boat owners have filled their tanks with red diesel and this needs considered to avoid boat owners becoming inadvertently caught out by these changes.

“Many private boat owners also cruise to Great Britain, where only red diesel will be available. We will need clarity around how any craft entering or returning to Northern Ireland  with red diesel in their tanks will be considered."

RYANI welcomes that there will be a new relief scheme in place to help avoid disproportionately penalising NI boaters, however, details of this scheme are yet to be published.  RYANI's current advice to boat owners is to retain all receipts, including VAT, in relation to the purchase of red diesel up to any changeover date, and then any subsequent receipts proving the purchase of white diesel.

RYA and RYA Northern Ireland have requested a meeting with HMRC to outline these concerns and seek further clarification.