Fuel smuggling into UK a significant concern
Road Haulage Association (RHA) policy director Jack Semple has said the growing quantity of illicit fuel being smuggled into Great Britain from Ireland is "a very real concern".
The warning came after a truck was stopped at Cairnryan Port with around 24,000 litres of suspected laundered diesel on board.
The fuel was seized after port police stopped a 40ft trailer as it arrived by ferry from Larne, in Northern Ireland, on 23 May. Officers from HMRC subsequently found nearly a thousand 30-litre plastic drums on board, filled with clear diesel. The drums were packed in cardboard boxes and stacked on shrinkwrapped pallets.
HMRC estimated the potential loss in tax revenues at £17,000.
Anne-Marie Gordon, assistant director of criminal investigation for HMRC, said the gangs behind such fuel smuggling operations, who often use vehicles not designed for the safe transport of fuel, showed "a complete disregard for the safety of other ferry passengers and motorists."
Semple said there was "a firm belief in the industry that the amount of [smuggled] fuel coming in is growing," adding that the RHA was "pretty certain a large proportion of it is heading towards the road transport industry".
The RHA is very keen to see the penalties associated with the smuggling and use of such fuel made more severe, he added.
"We hear of work being done on behalf, ultimately, of household name companies for rates which could not possibly be justified if the operator was running legally," he told Commercialmotor.com.
"[That operator] is probably breaking drivers' hours rules and almost certainly running on diesel that is significantly cheaper than he can buy legitimately.
"That means he is doing work legitimate hauliers are not doing and also adds to downward pressure on rates," he warned.