Thirsty Eberspächers

When is this Red Diesel nightmare ever going to end? Every time the Government says it is finally going to make a definitive ruling on the issue, they somehow manage to spin out the agony for another few months. If you haven’t already heard the latest machinations, then you’d better sit down and put your feet up.

The good news is that we are going to be allowed to carry on using red diesel even after the November 2008 deadline. At a stroke, this gets rid of our concerns about boat owners having to remove all traces of red from their tanks and suppliers having to install new pumps or choose to serve either the leisure or the commercial sector only. The bad news is that the Government is going to apply the same extortionate rate of duty on red diesel for leisure use as it does for the ultra-low sulphur ‘white’ diesel used on the roads. Well there’s a surprise! Commercial craft meanwhile can carry on paying the lower rate.

Except that it’s not quite as simple as that. The onus is on the boat’s owner to declare whether the fuel is being used for commercial or leisure use, not the person selling the fuel. And, even when you’ve ‘fessed up that your Sunseeker Predator 108 isn’t in fact a fishing boat in disguise, you are still allowed to claim that some of the fuel is being used for domestic purposes such as heating and air-conditioning and can therefore be taxed at the lower rate.

The trouble is that nobody seems to know how these two grey areas are going to be policed. Will a coded charter boat need to provide proof of whether it is being used for private or commercial use? Will there be a limit as to how much fuel can legitimately be claimed as heating oil? Yet again the answers aren’t forthcoming.

Maybe that’s no bad thing but I can’t help feeling that the majority of boat owners are getting a little tired of all this uncertainty and would rather have clarity than yet another fudge. As it stands it seems to be daring boat owners to see what they can get away with until some poor soul pushes his luck just a little too far and gets thrown to the dogs as an example to the rest of us. As one wag put it on the mby.com forum, until some definitive guidelines are put in place there are going to be some very thirsty Eberspächers out there.