Red diesel issues in Belgium, including skippers being fined, have resulted in UK sailors avoiding going to Belgium.

Recent news that a skipper going into Nieuwpoort in Belgium was fined £500 for having traces of red diesel in his tank, led to the Cruising Association (CA) technical experts advising sailors to avoid visiting Belgium.

RATS, the CA’s Regulations and Technical Services team, has since heard of other yachts being fined this summer.

In recent years the CA arranged an ‘understanding’ with Belgian officials and marina contacts regarding red diesel and it was agreed UK boats would not be boarded or fines given. The main Belgian marina contact could give no reason for, nor why no warning was given, about the non-observance of the agreed understanding.

The sudden change this year of their conduct and apparent random heavy fining for vessels having even residual traces of red diesel engine fuel, together with no guarantee of the Belgian officials adhering to the original RATS advice note, has led RATS to conclude that they must now raise their level of advice to members not to call into Belgian ports.

An east coast sailor who had planned to cruise to Holland via Ostend from Harwich with other boats from his local yacht club, Jack Davis, aborted his plans after hearing of the red diesel issues.

He said: ‘I have sent a message to the harbour master at Royal Yacht Club Ostend telling him that we will not be coming due to recent experiences of English yachtsmen in Belgium regarding red diesel.’

Two years ago Belgian restaurants, businesses and bars complained that British sailors were no longer visiting because of problems with Belgian officials boarding boats and fining skippers if red diesel was found in jerry cans or boat tanks.

EU law states that it is illegal to use red diesel in boats and skippers must buy the more expensive white diesel. No other country has been known to fine boats using red diesel.