My response - to the Transport Taxes Team
Subject: Changes to Hydrocarbon Oil Duties Act 1979 (HODA)
A change to the law in the UK regarding the supply of red diesel to leisure boat owners is being proposed. I have to express some feelings on this matter since it has a material impact on me as a leisure sailor using maybe 200 litres of fuel a year sailing my boat within the EU.
The idea of large scale transportation of red diesel from the UK to Europe for resale by leisure users is improbable considering the average capacity of most leisure boats is generally around 150 litres. This completely overlooks the fact that the price advantage is in the opposite direction.
The proposed solution seems to lack any imagination or creativity and will only serve to meet an illogical EU directive. The only beneficiary will be HMG in protecting herself, possibly, from the prospect of an action by the EU.
To simply seek to absolve the UK Government from securing an intelligent solution to this question by expecting leisure boat owners to take the risk of travelling outside UK waters is totally unreasonable.
Practically the proposal is flawed because:
If I sign the proposed declaration in order to secure convenient supplies from harbour based suppliers I risk difficulties anyway as soon as I leave UK waters. I cannot believe that HMG would expect me to sign the declaration knowing it is my intention to leave UK waters.
Under the proposed system, if I refuse to sign the declaration then I have to secure supplies of un-dyed diesel at petrol stations and transport that to the boat.
There will almost certainly be a limit to the amount of diesel that can be purchased from petrol stations and transported by car in cans.
Transporting such diesel to the boat in multiple cans will also have associated risks of pollution whilst transferring the fuel to the boat and from the cans to the boat's storage system.
The measure is also likely to deter foreign boat owners from coming to the UK since, when refuelling here, they will be asked to declare that the fuel will only be used in UK waters, which is patently not the case.
The proposed change will effectively deny me the right to travel freely and safely with my boat within the EU.
On technical grounds the powering my boat with currently available white diesel is not an acceptable solution on several grounds. Amongst them are:
White diesel is not widely available from marine suppliers in harbours and marinas. It is highly improbable that most marine suppliers will be in a position to afford to convert their systems to accommodate un-dyed diesel.
My existing fuel system is stained with red dye from years of use. This requires a major operation to clean the system and remove traces of dye from the tanks and piping.
White diesel currently available in the UK contains bio-fuel. It is known that such bio-fuel has a seriously detrimental effect on some marine engines. It also causes problems of `bugs’ in tanks, causing blocked filters and other deterioration in storage leading to engine equipment damage and leakage from fuel component seals. All of which represent significant additional safety risks to boat owners.
It is not practical in most cases to fit second tanks to accommodate un-dyed diesel.
An incident with the Netherlands Customs on this matter and being fined €800 has made me sensitive to the implications of this measure.
I only managed to secure a refund after considerable effort that I was able to convince the Authorities that I had bought the fuel legally and paid the prevailing duty in the UK.
This refund did not compensate for the trauma my wife experienced being escorted at past midnight by armed customs officers to the nearest cash machine to withdraw the cash to pay the fine. The alternative was being detained and the boat being impounded.
This is the kind of scenario that boaters travelling to the EU will be exposed to if this change is made.
A solution would be to withdraw the proposed legislation and for the EU to take a pragmatic view of this situation and develop an intelligent, practical and cheap solution.
Maybe agreeing with our colleagues in Europe that boats inspected that have dyed diesel in their tanks and cannot produce a legitimate receipt issued in the previous 6 months are guilty of an offence.
If some more intelligent and enforceable solution is not achieved then I feel that you will have failed at many levels to represent my interests in the UK and the EU.