Widespread use of green diesel by leisure boaters in Ireland has led to a European Court of Justice summons

The Irish government is being taken to court by the European Commission (EC) over the use of green diesel by leisure boat owners.

Green diesel is a form of marked fuel, similar to red diesel in the UK, which benefits from a reduced tax rate.

It is meant to be used by working fishing boats only, but many leisure boaters in Ireland use green diesel as they rely on the fishing community’s refuelling points.

In theory, leisure boat owners are meant to file a tax return at the end of the year and pay the difference to the government.

However, the EC has said that the low number of tax returns filed show that this is not happening in many cases.

In a statement, the EC warned of the consequences: “Private leisure boats risk heavy penalties if they travel to another Member State and the boat is inspected by the local authorities.”

The European body warned the Irish government to close this loophole in a memo published in April, but a lack of response has led to legal action.

Safety concerns

Harry Hermon, chief executive of the Irish Sailing Association, said that setting up separate fuelling points for leisure boaters is not a feasible option:

“It will be an enormous and costly task to create a network of ‘white’ diesel suppliers exclusively for leisure craft. The cost involved and the return would not be viable for suppliers.”

He added that any ban on green diesel would result in boat owners using their cars to carry jerry cans of fuel from petrol stations to their marina, a practice which is both dangerous and illegal.

In response to the possibility of prosecution overseas, Mr Hermon added: “The Irish Sailing Association has received no reports from any boats travelling abroad having difficulties as a result of the green diesel in their tanks.”

This news follows a similar development in the UK, which saw the EC challenge the British government over red diesel earlier this year.