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Using Red Diesel for Yachts in Line with Regulation

29 May 2024

Large yacht moored at a dock waiting to be refueled

When choosing fuel to power a yacht, it is vital to consider the options available. Many requirements change depending on the yacht’s location, its intended cruising region, and whether it is to be operated under commercial or leisure regulations. We get asked quite a lot of questions regarding the use of red-dyed diesel in yachts, specifically privately registered yachts, so we thought we would outline some of the considerations.

To stay in line with the relevant regulations, using the right fuel is important. Red diesel is dyed red as a way to differentiate it from regular road diesel, which is generally clear or slightly tinted. This colouring is a regulatory measure to prevent misuse of the fuel. Other than the colouring, there is no material difference in specification between red diesel and clear diesel, it is only dyed due to regulations around financial rebates and has been in common use for decades.

Red diesel technical specifications

EN590 diesel has a density range between 820 kg per cubic metre – 845 kg per cubic metre, which is a critical factor for the yachting industry due to its impact on the injectors and inline pumps used in the engines. The red dye has zero impact on the density of the fuel, so being red-dyed does not make it any less appropriate for yacht consumption based purely on the density.

The fuel’s flashpoint is equally important, as EN590 has a lower flashpoint limit of 55°C, which is too low for the minimum 60°C limit imposed by the International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea (“SOLAS”). In the UK, to ensure a flashpoint above 60°C, suppliers will often suggest a red-dyed product. 

UK restrictions and regulations for red diesel use

In the United Kingdom, Red diesel is a very strictly regulated product, and under the Hydrocarbon Oil Duties Act 1979 red diesel is marked with red dye so that it is easily identifiable and is designated for non-road use. This is because it has a lower tax rate to encourage use in alternative industries like residential heating and agriculture. 

Privately registered yachts in the UK can use red diesel, however, there are limitations on when and how it can be employed. According to UK law, red diesel can only be used to power a private boat if it is being used exclusively for recreational or navigational purposes and not for business purposes.  Red diesel may be purchased at a reduced rate of duty if it is utilised for home uses like heating or producing power. To ensure no mistakes are made, it is important to remember that you can only purchase red dyed diesel through a registered dealer in the UK.

The EU and red diesel

When purchasing red diesel for their vessel, recreational sailors must declare to the supplier that they want to use it to power a personal pleasure craft. The percentage of fuel that will be used for propulsion (as opposed to home uses like heating or electricity generation) must also be declared. 

While the supply of red-dyed diesel is not permitted in any form for yachts in the EU, under the rules of temporary admission, fuel that is already in the tank that you bunkered from outside the EU, when you enter the EU is entirely legal and will not result in penalties. It is important however for yacht owners to take advantage of their own legal advice and the guidance provided by marinas and suppliers to understand their particular circumstances to ensure a smooth and trouble-free experience on the water. 

Using HVO blend with MGO

While we are confident that bunkering red-dyed products outside the UK will not cause issues in the EU, at Peninsula we offer additional options for marine fuel bunkering including BFuture Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO), which can be mixed with Marine Gas Oil (MGO).

This offers a great alternative, especially in regions like the UK where red diesel is the only low sulphur option available. By blending HVO with MGO, not only are sulphur emissions reduced, but also carbon content.

This article is not intended as legal or tax advice, but rather to help operators of yachts and buyers of yacht fuel get a flavour of the issues at play. If some of the issues we describe seem relevant to you or your operation, we strongly suggest you take your own professional advice. Our focus here is on the United Kingdom and the European Union, rather than considering the purchase and use of red dyed diesel globally. As you will also appreciate, laws and taxation rules change over time, so please do consider that the situation may have changed if you are reading it after the publication date.

Find out more about our low-carbon fuel products here.