Belgian authorities have confirmed that there will now be no fines or penalties for UK vessels visiting Belgium with UK marine red diesel in their tanks
The Belgian Finance Office has confirmed to the Cruising Association (CA) that there will now be no fines or penalties for UK vessels visiting Belgium which have UK marine red diesel in their tanks.
This will hopefully attract visitors back to the country after many sailors stayed away last year.
The notice from the Finance Office read: “The policy of tolerance regarding Red Diesel in UK flagged yachts visiting Belgium will be maintained until further notice. Any change to this policy will be communicated in due time. This removes any remaining uncertainty for the members, and other yachtsmen and women, who wish to make the crossing from the east coast or channel ports to Belgium. This status quo to the agreement will not change, without warning, on behalf of the boating community in the UK.”
However, 100% fuel duty must still be paid on all red diesel which is purchased before a trip to Belgium. The full stipulations are contained in the note from the CA’s Regulations and Technical Services Group.
The decision follows the sustained efforts of the CA, including meeting the Belgian Ambassador and lobbying via the CA’s Honorary Local Representatives in addition to its other contacts in Belgium.
Sailors are being advised that controls on the use of red diesel in Belgium remain suspended until further notice.
The confirmation has come from the RYA which has been in contact with the Belgian Ministry of Finance.
The move comes after a British couple were fined €500 after Customs officials found red diesel in the fuel tank of their Hunter Channel 31, Blue Diamond, while they were in Nieuwpoort, Belgium in June this year.
Maurice and Jill Phillips later urged other sailors to boycott the country.
The RYA said this latest announcement follows a meeting of the EU’s Indirect Tax Expert Group, which met earlier this month on the issue.
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“It remains to be seen what action, if any, the formal report of the meeting of the Indirect Tax Expert Group will reveal, but for the time being at least it appears that boats with red diesel in their tanks can continue to visit Belgium without fear of being fined,” said an RYA spokesman.
The RYA said it has been assured that it will be notified if the situation in Belgium changes.
It added that by lobbying to retain the lawful use of red diesel by UK boaters, either here in the UK or in Europe, it aimed to: “ensure continuity of supply for UK boaters in the more remote parts of the UK; ensure continuity of supply for UK boaters on the inland waterways; ensure lawful use of duty paid marked diesel for UK boaters in Europe”.
The RYA is urging anyone who is fined in Belgium for having red diesel in their tanks to email them at email@example.com giving as much detail as possible.
The RYA says it is seeking clarification on the use of red diesel by UK boaters in Belgium after it was informed by the VVW Nieuwpoort Marina that the Belgian Government will no longer be checking recreational craft for red diesel.
It comes after British couple, Maurice and Jill Phillips were fined €500 after Customs officials found red diesel in the fuel tank of their Hunter Channel 31, Blue Diamond.
The pair were in Nieuwpoort, Belgium when the incident happened at the end of June. They have since urged other sailors to boycott the country.
Now the RYA says it has been informed by VVW Nieuwpoort Marina that the Belgian Government “will no longer be checking recreational craft for red diesel, as a common European approach is to be discussed at a meeting on the matter in September.”
The organisation is trying to verify this information but says it “has been assured that British yachts can enter Belgian ports without fear of being fined, at present”.
The RYA contacted the Minister of Finance’s office in Belgium which advised that “due to there being different treatment on how the use of red diesel in pleasure craft is dealt with in different EU member states, Belgian customs has suspended all controls until there has been a debate at EU level to ensure a uniform approach in all member states.”
This debate is expected to take place on 18 September 2017.
In its correspondence with the RYA. the Minister of Finance’s office stated: “This means that British yachts can enter Belgian ports without fear of being fined.”
The RYA is also stressing that this does not represent a change of legislation in the country.
“It should however be noted that this is not a change to the Belgian legislation,” stressed the RYA.
“It is simply a statement that the law will not be enforced in the short term. The anticipated outcome of the EU level debate is uniform treatment on the use of red diesel in all EU ports, which we have been assured will be clearly notified,” it stated.
A couple who were fined €500 by the Belgium authorities for having red diesel in their yacht fuel tank are urging other British sailors to boycott the country.
Speaking to Yachting Monthly‘s Theo Stocker, Maurice and Jill Phillips said they “strongly suspect” their Hunter Channel 31, Blue Diamond, was selected by Customs because they were flying the Red Ensign.
The couple were returning from a cruising holiday along the Dutch waterways with the Westerly Owners Association when the incident happened.
They are now keen to publicise their misfortune at Nieuwpoort, Belgium “in order that other innocent British yachtsmen don’t suffer the same fate”.
The Phillips said the officials didn’t give any reason for inspecting the fuel on board Blue Diamond, and although the couple had fuel receipts, these were not asked for, although the rest of their paperwork was thoroughly examined.
They said they were not aware of anyone else being inspected, and they were told the fine had to be paid on the spot.
“No opportunity was offered to appeal,” explained the Phillips, adding, “We were in shock anyway”.
They said the officers who inspected their fuel tank advised that UK boats should clean their tanks so that no trace of red dye is present, and stated they had English boats come in with clean tanks.
“We said we didn’t know how this could be achieved as we believed only red diesel was available in British marinas. They didn’t believe this,” explained the Phillips.
“We had been away from the UK for 6 weeks and during this time had been topping up with “clean” diesel. We have a small fuel tank which only holds 60 litres. Their sample tube would not go down our filler and I was asked to take a sample from the fuel
filter. I then had to bleed the engine of course,” added Mr Phillips.
Following the incident, the couple say they will never visit the country again and are urging other sailors to also give it a miss.
“We will never ever go to Belgium again and are advising all we know in the boating world that they should do likewise. Our cruising
companions are still in the Dutch waterways, but are plotting courses to avoid Belgium on their return journey,” explained the Phillips, who usually moor Blue Diamond at Sovereign Harbour, Eastbourne.
The RYA is asking anyone who has been fined in Belgium for having red diesel in their boat’s fuel tank to contact them.
It comes after the association received reports that one sailor was fined €500 for having traces of the fuel in his yacht’s fuel tank.
The boat had been inspected by Belgian Customs in Nieuwpoort.
“Belgian Customs boarded the UK flagged boat at the KYCN Marina and in addition to checking paperwork examined a sample of fuel, which was found to contain traces of red diesel,” explained the RYA.
Although it is still legal to purchase red diesel for use in pleasure craft in the UK, it is unlawful in Belgium to use red diesel for propelling a private pleasure craft.
As a result, the number of British yachts visiting the country has fallen.
Back in 2010 and 2011, the Belgian authorities clamped down on the use of ‘red’ diesel, with many sailors receiving significant fines.
“The Belgian Authorities then appeared to have become more tolerant of UK boaters using red diesel and the risk of being fined seemed to have reduced. We received a report in May 2016 which suggested that the Belgian Authorities were hardening, however no reports of fines were received until now,” stated the RYA, which has continually lobbied for Belgium to reinstate the permission for visiting British yachts to use red diesel.
The association say it is unclear if this more recent fine is an “isolated incident” or if it is a signal that the Belgian authorities are taking a “tougher approach” towards UK flagged boats.
It is now asking anyone who has been fined in Belgium for having red diesel in their tanks to contact them giving as much detail about the incident as possible.
Anyone wanting to get in touch should email firstname.lastname@example.org.