"This has to be good news to help reduce fuel laundering," was the response from the Freight Transport (FTA) today, following the announcement by the UK and Ireland governments that they are to introduce a marker that will help tackle fuel fraud.
The product will be used to mark rebated fuels, including the off-road diesel commonly known in the UK as ‘red diesel’, in a move that will boost both countries’ fight against illegal fuel laundering. The marker will help HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the Irish Revenue Commissioners tackle the criminal market in off-road diesel, marked with a red dye in the UK and green in Ireland, and also kerosene primarily used for heating oil.
Seamus Leheny Policy & Membership Relations Manager – Northern Ireland said:
"FTA welcomes any effort that can help reduce or eliminate fuel laundering, and the announcement of this marker we are sure will go a long way to help."
HMRC has reported that it is stepping up its fight against fraud, stating that the new marker will make rebated fuel much harder for fraudsters to ‘launder’ and sell on at a profit, adding that the introduction of a more robust marker will ensure it is far harder to remove.
Whilst welcoming the introduction of the marker, FTA also went on to voice a word of caution in the use of the initiative stating that "any chemical solutions to fuel laundering are ultimately prone to chemical counter-measures by fuel launders." FTA has long campaigned against fuel laundering outlining the enormous financial loss to HMRC and the Irish Revenue through the use of illicit and washed diesel, saying that as a result the issue is causing huge damage to compliant operators.
Mr Leheny added:
"Fuel represents approximately 40 per cent of operating costs for transport operators hence legitimate operators in Northern Ireland are at a distinct disadvantage when competing against those that illegally use laundered diesel."
The Association outlined suggested accompanying measures that they considered are also required:
Removal of haulage/passenger licences from operators found using laundered fuel
Confiscation and sale of any vehicles found using laundered fuel, even where it is a first-time offence Confiscation and sale of land/premises where fuel laundering is taking place, even where it is a first-time offence Minimum prison sentencing for those involved in fuel laundering Leheny concluded:
"Vigilance will be key in helping this marker to work successfully, fuel launders are determined to ‘out-smart’ such initiatives and FTA is calling on the authorities to make enforcement measures against criminal activities robust."
The use of illicit diesel is estimated to be 12-per cent of the market share in Northern Ireland and about two per cent in the rest of the UK.