Scottish-registered scallop dredger Cornelis Gert Jan left Le Havre on Wednesday evening, having been held there since last week after French authorities accused it of fishing in the country’s waters without a proper licence. The blue, white and red trawler left the quayside after dusk and docked at Shoreham-by-Sea, near Brighton, at 4.46am on Thursday, according to the MarineTraffic.com website.
Andrew Brown, the public affairs director of the vessel’s owner Macduff Shellfish confirmed it has been released by French authorities.
He said: “The court of appeal determined that no bond was required for the release of the vessel.
“We are pleased to have this matter resolved and delighted that our crew and vessel are now able to return home.”
Mr Brown added: “The crew have acted with calmness and professionalism throughout the entire incident.
“They are in good spirits, looking forward to return to their loved ones and are grateful for all the messages of support received from the British public.”
The ruling came after Jondy Ward, the boat’s captain, appeared at the Court of Appeal in Rouen earlier on Wednesday.
Mr Ward said French maritime police detained the trawler last week for not being on a European register when it was fishing off the Normandy coast.
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He was unclear as to whether it was an error on the part of UK or French officials.
He insisted: “We had everything in order on the bridge, as far as I was concerned we had everything in place to be legal.”
The boat was “definitely” caught in the middle of the Franco-British spat over post-Brexit fishing arrangements, Mr Ward stressed.
His remarks were echoed by his lawyer, Mathieu Croix, who told reporters outside the courtroom: “We’re clearly caught in a political game as there is a whole story spun around this entire case, whereas in fact it is a rather mundane affair over fishing in an area that is supposedly out of bounds, and about licences that may or may not have been given and catch amounts that are relatively modest.”
Brexit Minister Lord David Frost is preparing to meet France’s Europe minister Clement Beaune in Paris in a bid to end the crisis in cross-Channel relations.
France has threatened sanctions over what it sees as a refusal to issue licences to its trawlers to operate in UK waters.
The UK Government says the overwhelming majority of applications for licences have been granted.
French President Emmanuel Macron has delayed the imposition of punitive measures while talks between the UK, France and the European Commission take place.
But the French government has insisted the measures – which may include a ban on British trawlers landing their catches in French ports and tighter customs checks which would hamper cross-Channel trade – remain “on the table” if no deal can be reached.
Lord Frost will speak with Mr Beaune before heading to Brussels on Friday to meet European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic.
French Government spokesman Gabriel Attal said: “We will see what comes with those meetings.
“As you know, the control measures that we announced are still suspended but all options are on the table and we may need to implement those measures if we do not reach an agreement.”
On Wednesday, he said: “We are just waiting for one thing: for the UK to respect the deal that they signed.”
Under the Brexit deal, European Union boats which can show they have fished in British waters in at least four of the years from 2012 to 2016 are eligible for a licence.
Some 1,831 applications for licences have been received, with 1,793 issued.
The main source of contention has been for smaller vessels, the under 12-metre category fishing between six and 12 nautical miles of the coast, where 50 applications have been received – all from French vessels – but just 19 have been issued.