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Marine Diesel Fuel in Ireland – The Real Problem is Not Price Or Duty, It's Availability & Quality

3rd December 2014
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Marine Diesel Fuel in Ireland – The Real Problem is Not Price Or Duty, It's Availability & Quality

#dieselfuel – The current controversy rumbling on in various outlets – most notably in the Irish Times letters pages – about how the Irish government has been dealing with EU Directives for differentiating between duty on diesel fuel for fishing boats, as opposed to a higher rate for pleasure craft, has obscured the fundamental problem of the ready availability or otherwise of good quality diesel fuel at remote parts of the coast writes W M Nixon.

Smart-alec comments about a favourable price structure for "wealthy yacht owners" dating back to the time when a certain Taoiseach was a noted boat enthusiast are a complete red herring as regards green diesel. The reality is that for auxiliary sailing cruisers, in the context of all the expenses of voyaging to remote areas such as the west of Ireland or Scotland's Hebrides, the relative price of diesel fuel comes way down the scale of considerations. The primary considerations are its ready availability (or not), and its quality.

Just recently, the quayside diesel pump at Burtonport in Donegal has been closed down, citing lack of business. This means that an entire swathe of our northwest coastline has no convenient means of supplying diesel to boats. Another problem is that when the quayside pump is used only occasionally, the fuel can stagnate. That said, the average boat owner, on seeing a quayside pump at a time when his own tank is running low, will dearly wish for the convenience of being able to take fuel on board cleanly and neatly without any further hassle, hoping that the fuel supplied won't result in a blockage despite the onboard filters.

Personal experience of the frustration which a "fishing boats only" diesel supply rule can cause came to me some years ago in a remote port in northwest Spain, where the fisherman's co-op had a quayside pump which was legally entitled to supply only its own members. With the possibility of mid-Biscay calms in prospect for our passage home to Ireland, we needed all the spare diesel we could get. Becoming a member of the Cedeira Fisherman's Co-op would have been a lengthy process taking several days even had it been allowed, but the obliging coo-op manager – a very decent man – drove me in his car with our spare jerry-cans to a garage on the far outskirts of the village, where they were filled with road diesel.

It was an absurd process, relying on the kindness of strangers. Needless to say, as we'd taken this trouble to get spare diesel, the breeze held for the whole way home. And we'd good winds too for a subsequent round Ireland cruise that same year, so the Cedeira diesel was well travelled when it was finally used.

Nevertheless if we wish to develop Ireland as a cruising destination for ourselves as much as overseas visitors, some new thinking is needed on the whole area of the supply of marine diesel. We all know how to get it as conveniently as possible in our own home ports. But in remote areas, it may well be that the drawbacks of maintaining an irregularly-used quayside pump outweigh any advantage, and there's surely merit to the suggestion by Cliff Hilliard, Hon. Sec. of the Irish Cruising Club, that filling stations at strategic locations around the coast be encouraged to invest in small tank trailers to deliver the white diesel which is now mandatory to the quayside.

Those who take on board diesel in industrial quantities, such as large motor yachts, may have other thoughts on the matter - all your views are welcome here.

Published in News Update
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