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Last Updated: Friday, 16 July, 2004, 11:57 GMT 12:57 UK
Offshore off-licence will reopen
The Rich Harvest at Hartlepool marina
Rich Harvest came into port for repairs
The owners of Britain's first offshore off-licence predict they will be trading again within days.

UK customs officials detained 120,000 worth of goods when the 72ft yacht Rich Harvest took refuge from a storm.

It was moored 13 miles off Hartlepool, selling cut-price alcohol and cigarettes.

Customs officers have agreed to return the goods, but have warned potential customers they face having any purchases seized.

Owners Phil Berriman, 46, from Stockton, and lecturer Trevor Lyons, 53, from Newcastle-Under-Lyme, had sought an injunction in the High Court in an effort to recover their stock.

But on Friday, Mr Lyons confirmed customs officials had agreed to return the goods, bought at a hypermarket in Germany.

Any person travelling outside the 12-mile limit and purchasing Duty Free or EU tax paid goods are not entitled to any allowances
Customs and Excise spokesman

Mr Lyons said: "We are pleased that we are getting our goods back, but there is still an important aspect of law which remains unclear.

"We would hope that we can amicably arbitrate this issue with Customs and Excise, otherwise we will seek a definitive ruling from the European Commission."

Mr Lyons said he believed the actions of customs officials breached international trade laws.

A spokesman for Customs and Excise said: "Customs will be returning the goods detained from the Rich Harvest so they may be re-exported.

Offshore business

"They were detained pending further enquiries because they had not been reported to Customs and Excise and in accordance with normal procedures were removed to the Queen's warehouse.

"Any person travelling outside the 12-mile limit and purchasing duty free or EU tax paid goods are not entitled to any allowances.

"Therefore any goods acquired by an individual in these circumstances may be seized. along with any vessel being used to transport the goods to the UK."

Mr Lyons, a senior lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University, said it was likely another vessel would be used to restart the offshore business.

He said: "The Rich Harvest still needs work and is really a pleasure yacht.

"We have other vessels ready to use, which are more suitable and have proper cargo holds."

They intend to use a 50ft support vessel to ferry customers out to sea.


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