The future of UK Red Diesel

The Cruising Association’s Regulations and Technical Services group (RATS) has been in communication with HMRC and confirmed, as a result of the March Budget Statement, report that it is HMRC’s intention to legislate that red diesel in the United Kingdom can only be used in agricultural equipment, on the railways and for non-commercial heating from 1st April 2022.

Since the propulsion of waterborne craft does not fit into these categories, it is HMRC’s intention that boats will have to use white diesel for this purpose. The duty on white diesel for boats will be the same as the full rate paid on white road diesel in the UK. This means that the present so called ’60/40′ fuel duty split will disappear but commercial vessels, such as fishing boats, will still be able to claim a rebate on the full rate through the ‘Marine Voyages Relief’ scheme.

HMRC is exploring the issues involved in introducing a scheme that allows private pleasure craft to pay only the current lower rate for red diesel non-propulsion uses.

RATS welcomes the clarification on the use of white diesel which should make it more conveniently available throughout the United Kingdom from marinas and ports as they will have to supply all marine vessels with one colour of diesel. The bonus will be that sailors can continue to fulfil the SOLAS V regulations for sea voyages and no longer have the concern of the presence of red diesel in their tanks when visiting EU Maritime States.

HMRC says there will be a forthcoming consultation which will deal with the full range of issues involved. Unfortunately, there is no indication as to when this will be published.

A spokesperson for RATS points out that private pleasure craft should continue to legally use red diesel as they currently do, since it is still the only easily available diesel fuel throughout the UK. At the moment, it is far from clear if boat owners will be able to sail to EU State waters in the remainder of the 2020 season, but if they can do so, they might wish to continue to follow the CA’s advice on using red diesel when visiting the EU.

Further info on red diesel consultation.

11 responses to “The future of UK Red Diesel”

  1. Paul White says:

    You couldn’t make it up. For several years the CA and RYA have been complaining about Belgium’s stance of yachts using red diesel because they consider it to be against EU regulations. Yet now, as the UK is about to leave the EU, the UK government wants to give the yachting industry a kicking. It should also be remembered that modern, white diesel contains a higher percentage of bio-diesel which is more prone to diesel bug thereby presenting a greater potential hazard to recreational sailors.


    Mix cooking oil with kerosene at 20-1 run fine stuff their red diesel

  3. Mark Donnelly says:

    Can the author of this article explain how the colour of the diesel has anything to do with SOLAS V?

    • Zella Compton says:

      Of course! If a boat fuelled with white diesel is unable to refill (for example some Scottish locations which only stock red diesel due to mainly being for fishing vessels etc), and they then put to sea, they won’t be properly provisioned with sufficient fuel onboard (SOLAS V requirement to be properly provisioned).

      • Zella Compton says:

        The author has also clarified: This would have been the situation if HMG simply accepted the CEUJ ruling and we had two colour streams of diesel — white for pleasure craft, red for all other marine vessels. Now that HMRC has legislated from April 2022, that we shall have only white diesel for all marine boats (including fishing vessels) the potential difficulty has disappeared as all marinas/ports will stock white diesel.

  4. Mark Donnelly says:

    I’m sorry, but your answer is ludicrous. To turn a revenue grab by the HMRC into a positive safety issue is nonsense. The fact remains that as a Leisure sailor I am being taxed more to enjoy my hobby, and this is irrelevant to the issue of safety. At present we can all use red and I would argue, using the authors logic, that making us use white would actually put us more in danger as we would be reluctant to use red should we find ourselves out of fuel, for fear of breaking the law. In addition, the point to the authors argument relating to SOLAS V is ‘provisioning’. I would ask the author to identify in SOLAS V where this is stated in relation to small pleasure craft. The RYA, in their article ‘SOLAS V regulations relevant to pleasure vessels under 150 GT’ certainly does not mention provisioning.

    • Zella Compton says:

      We’ll pass your comment along, and let you know the outcome.

      • Zella Compton says:

        The CA has clarified as follows:
        We have been asked how the availability of marine diesel is a factor to be taken into account under SOLAS V. Regulation 34 of SOLAS Chapter V Safety of Navigation makes clear that passage planning is required for all vessels that put to sea. Annex 23 para 9 deals with passage planning for small craft and expressly states that one of the factors to be taken into account is:

        “limitations of the vessel: consider whether your vessel and crew are suited to the proposed trip and that you have sufficient safety equipment and stores with you.”

        This is reinforced by para 7.3 of MGN 599 (M) which applies to leisure vessels. Stores include fuel. It would be a foolhardy skipper who planned a passage without considering his current fuel levels and how and where he might replenish these.

    • Diane Campbell says:

      The comment from Mark about more tax on his hobby is laughable, those of us that boat with outboards or petrol inboards have had this problem for years. Welcome to the real world of boating.

  5. Philip Smye-Rumsby says:

    My commercial vehicles have to use white diesel the same as any private vehicle, and with no rebate. The amount of duty apart, accept the fact that you have had it good up to now. I don’t suspect you will get much sympathy from the non-boating community.

  6. Steve Thompson says:

    My main concern is the quality of the fuel – on our sailing boat we may fill up with diesel just once a year. White diesel does not keep well, the bio content may be higher than our 3 year old engine requires and we may end up suffering from diesel bug issues as a result.

This article was written and/or edited by the UK-based MIN team.

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