Dutch MEP calls for five-yearly boat inspections and ban red diesel use

British sailors could be forced to register for boat
licences, to have compulsory safety checks every five years and be banned from
using red diesel if proposals from a Dutch MEP are approved.

Sailors have reacted with fury to the plans, which they
insist would be impractical, unnecessary and likely to drag down the standard
of sailing in Britain.

Toine Manders, MEP for the Netherlands, has accused
sailors of tax avoidance and said the EU should crack down by banning the use
of red diesel. However Tom Cunliffe, RYA yachtmaster instructor examiner, BBC
broadcaster and Yachting Monthly columnist, believes the
politician is wrong.

“Using red diesel is
not tax evasion,” he said. “Everyone has to pay tax on it unless you
can prove it’s for a non-taxable use, such as heating.” He added that banning
the use of red diesel is completely impractical.

The Dutch MEP also wants a standard compulsory boat licence
to apply across the whole of the EU. The RYA says the competency of leisure
sailors is outside the scope of the draft Directive.

“The proposed wording has no legal force,” said Stuart
Carruthers, RYA cruising manager. “We have made representations in the
strongest possible terms.”

Tom Cunliffe added: “There
will always be people who don’t understand responsible leisure use of the sea
who want to stick licenses on everyone. In this country leisure sailboat
sailors are highly responsible people who don’t cause problems.”

He also pointed out that
leisure sailors have been voluntarily seeking training for decades at a very
high level. Officials would need to introduce a licence to amateur boaters at a
low level, which would “drag down standards rather than raising

Manders also wants to force leisure sailors to have
inspections every five years to check on board equipment that uses gas “to
ensure that the vessels comply with the safety requirements at all times”.

Cunliffe doesn’t think an
official checking a gas system every five years is the right move; he checks
his gas system at least twice a year. “Most people do this already, we
don’t need regulation,” he added.

Manders’ suggestions were put forward as an amendment to a
EU proposal hoping to normalise safety arrangements and harmonise design
standards across member states.

David Elson, federation director of the British Marine
Federation said they believe it’s very unlikely that Manders’ proposals will be
successful. It’s understood that the British government will do its utmost to
veto the moves.

If you don’t want to be forced to get a boat licence, if you
don’t want to be subjected to compulsory safety checks and if you want to keep
using red diesel, you need to write to your MEP outlining your concerns. Click
here to find out who your local MEP is

“We need to fight
this tooth and nail all the way,” said Cunliffe.