The RYA is advising all sailors visiting Belgium that fines for having red diesel on board remain suspended
27 September 2017
Sailors can now visit Belgium without fear of being fined for the use of red diesel.
The advice comes from the RYA, which said it had received confirmation from the Belgian Ministry of Finance that fines have been suspended until further notice.
In June, 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, while they were in Nieuwpoort, Belgium.
Three other UK boats were also fined this summer in Nieuwpoort.
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.
At the end of July, the Cruising Association (CA) announced that it had received reports of UK boats being tested for red diesel in tanks and the owners fined €500 if any traces were found, even if receipts were provided.
In all cases, a Schengen crew list was also provided to officials.
The CA’s Regulations and Technical Services group has worked continuously with Belgian authorities over the issue of UK boats allegedly contravening EU rules regarding red diesel.
It recommends that anyone planning to visit Belgian ports should carry receipts for all diesel purchased in the past two years, which should have tax paid on 100% of fuel.
They should also carry a Schengen crew list, and if possible a print-out of the full text of the email from the Belgian Ambassador on the CA’s website.
31 July 2017
UK boats which had abandoned plans to go to Belgium this summer, now have seven weeks’ grace without fear of being fined for having red diesel in their tanks, reports the Cruising Association (CA).
Four UK boats were each fined €500 earlier this summer when they entered Nieuwpoort in Belgium with red diesel aboard.
The CA’s Regulations and Technical Services group, which had worked continuously with Belgian authorities over the issue of UK boats allegedly contravening EU rules regarding red diesel, said their contact in Nieuwpoort could give RATS no explanation of the sudden Customs action this summer. They have now confirmed that RATS advice, agreed with them three years ago, would now be honoured.
The Belgian Ambassador to the UK has told the CA that Belgium will suspend fines for boats found to be carrying red diesel, until the issue has been discussed by the EU Committee on Excise Duty on September 18.
The CA had received reports that yachts visiting Belgium were:
- tested for red diesel in tanks and fined €500 if any traces were found, even if receipts were provided
- inspected for paperwork, including Schengen crew lists.
As a result, RATS wrote to the Belgian Ambassador in London and Belgian Customs in Brussels to ask for an explanation for their change of conduct.
The CA now recommends that anyone planning to visit Belgian ports should carry receipts for all diesel purchased in the past two years, which should have tax paid on 100% of fuel. They should also carry a Schengen crew list, and if possible a print-out of the full text of the email from the Belgian Ambassador on the CA’s website.
The CA’s advice will be revised, if necessary, after September 18.
The Royal Yachting Association (RYA) issues Red Diesel update
In response to red diesel fines that occurred in Belgium at the end of June and earlier this month, the RYA has been in communication with the relevant UK and European authorities, with a view to encouraging them to find a solution to the discrepancy between the laws in Belgium and the UK.
The UK has still not heard anything further concerning the infraction proceedings that the RYA reported had been threatened in 2014. The Belgian Government has seemingly not been prepared to wait for that due process to be followed, resulting in UK boaters receiving fines.
Last week, however, VVW Nieuwpoort Marina announced that 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 RYA proactively sought to verify this information and has been assured that British yachts can enter Belgian ports without fear of being fined, at present.
The RYA contacted the Secretary of State of the North Sea’s office (the source of VVW Nieuwpoort Marina’s information) to request formal confirmation that Belgian Customs would no longer be checking pleasure craft for red diesel.
The response indicated that, due to the Secretary of State of the North Sea’s intervention, a temporary decision has been taken by the Minister of Finance to take a more tolerant approach.
That said, it also made it clear that it was outside the Secretary of State’s jurisdiction to provide the RYA with formal confirmation that British boaters can travel to Belgium with red diesel in the tanks of their pleasure craft without the risk of being fined.
The RYA was also told that Secretary of State of the North Sea was also unable to guarantee that customs officers would not continue to conduct checks. Our request for official confirmation that British boaters can travel to Belgium with red diesel in the tanks of their pleasure craft without the risk of being fined was therefore referred to the Minister of Finance’s office.
Subsequently, the Minister of Finance’s office 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.
The correspondence from the Minister of Finance’s office stated: ‘This means that British yachts can enter Belgian ports without fear of being fined.’
It should however be noted that this is not a change to the Belgian legislation. 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.
In order to maintain a clear picture of this developing situation, the RYA would urge anyone who is fined in Belgium for having red diesel in their tanks to email email@example.com giving as much detail as possible.
The RYA will keep its members updated as this situation progresses, however it would appear that until mid-September Belgian ports can once again be visited without risking a fine for having red diesel in vessels’ tanks.