Crew of detained British fishing boat advised to stay onboard for own safety

The crew of the British trawler detained by French authorities have been advised to stay onboard for their own safety as tensions continue to escalate in the ongoing fishing row.

Andrew Brown, head of public affairs for MacDuff Shellfish, which owns the vessel, said that despite the situation the fishermen’s spirits remained good.

Mr Brown told the PA news agency he understood that the captain of the Cornelis Gert Jan had been charged by French authorities with matters relating to fishing without a licence.

Meanwhile, European Commission spokesman Tim McPhie told journalists in Brussels: “The information we have is the licence for this vessel had been withdrawn by the UK authorities back in March.”

The vessel is being detained near Le Havre, in northern France.

France Britain Fishing
Andrew Brown, head of public affairs for MacDuff Shellfish, which owns the vessel, said that despite the situation the fishermen’s spirits remained good. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

Mr Brown said there was a “coordinated effort” across the UK Government to return the vessel and crew home.

“Obviously our first priority is to get the crew, the captain and the vessel out of the port and back to the UK,” he told PA.

“We are engaging all efforts to do so.

“There is a coordinated effort across the UK Government to extricate our people at the earliest possible time.”

He added that colleagues involved in the fleet had been in regular contact with the crew and they were believed to still be comfortable.

“Spirits are good,” he said.

“Obviously the skipper has had quite an intense couple of days being interviewed by the police but he’s a cool head and he’s OK at the moment as well.

“But obviously we don’t want to prolong any discomfort out there.

“UK fishermen in general are not particularly well thought of by the French industry so we’ve told the crew to stay onboard for their own safety and we want to get them out as soon as possible.

“The vessel was designed to be out at sea for six or seven days at a time so there’s plenty of space and facilities and food to keep them comfortable.”

Asked when he thought the ship and crew would be permitted to return home, Mr Brown said: “To a large extent in the hands of the French authorities.

“All we can do is use all the political leverage we can muster to get the vessel released as soon as possible.

“We don’t know where the error of interpretation of the licence lies, that will take some time to fix.

“But I would believe that under normal circumstances a misunderstanding like this could be sorted out with a phone-call.”

He added: “The fact that we’ve had quite a heavy handed and disproportionate approach to what appears to be an administrative misunderstanding… I think is a reflection of the political atmosphere at the moment.”