China's maritime authority is preparing to sue U.S. firm ConocoPhillips over an oil spill in China's northern Bohai Bay, Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported.
Citing a spokesperson from the State Oceanic Administration, Xinhua said late on Wednesday that China was ready to file a lawsuit seeking compensation for the spill once it appoints a team of lawyers, perhaps before the end of August.
The maritime authority, which would file the lawsuit on behalf of the government, was quoted as saying that the oil spill at the Penglai 19-3 oilfield, China's biggest offshore oil field, had polluted some 840 square kilometres of water and damaged the country's marine environment.
It intends to select a team of eight law firms to file the suit, from a group of 49 companies that have expressed interest in representing China in the case.
Earlier this week, a unit of ConocoPhillips said it had started evaluating the environmental impact of its oil spill, but said it had not received any claims for the incident.
The company has said it halted original leaks which started in June. ConocoPhillips owns a 49 percent stake in the oilfield and acts as the operator, while China's top offshore oil and gas producer, CNOOC Ltd , has a 51 percent stake.
Fishermen in the country's northern Hebei province were preparing to sue the U.S. firms for allegedly wiping out large numbers of scallops in the ocean, Chinese media reported earlier.
The reports estimated that the spill had inflicted between 150 million yuan ($23.5 million) and 170 million yuan of losses on the fishing sector.