Published: Friday 30 April 1999

-- A judge has frozen the Argentine assets worth us $60 million of Anglo-Dutch oil giant Royal Dutch/Shell Group and a German firm after an oil spill in the River Plate, a local official said. Juan Sibetti, mayor of Magdalena, 110 km southeast of Buenos Aires, told news agencies the assets were frozen at his town hall's request after a Shell ship Estrella Pampeana collided with Sea Parana owned by Germany's Schiffahrts-Gessellschaft ms Primus mb h & Co in February 1999, causing the spill.

"We do not say the damage was intentional but it does exist and someone has to pay for it," Sibetti said. The spill was estimated at 4,600 cubic meters (29,000 barrels) by Shell but Sibetti said it totaled 5,300 cubic meters (33,000 barrels) and affected about 30 km of coastline of the huge estuary which separates Argentina from Uruguay.

Sibetti said Magdalena had initially asked Judge Ricardo Ferrer for an asset freeze of us $50 million, which the judge raised to us $60 million. The judicial measure is preliminary pending an investigation into the case to determine responsibilities. Magdalena also obtained from the judge a measure banning the Liberian-flagged Estrella Pampeana and the Sea Parana from leaving a port where they were undergoing repairs. "We got information that they (had been able to) leave Argentine territory," said Sibetti.

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