The owners of YM Efficiency cargo ship that lost 60 containers off the Hunter coast in 2018 are likely to be pursued in court for an unpaid $3 million bill for clean-up costs.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority issued the bill to Yang Ming and its insurers on December 21, 2019 for costs incurred in organising the clean-up, which is due to commence in March.
Payment was due January 18.
Australian Maritime Safety Authority confirmed on Friday that the bill had still not been paid as of this week.
"On 24th January 2020, AMSA sent a letter to Yang Ming and AusShip about the overdue invoice," a spokeswoman said.
"AMSA is awaiting their response and will take further action if payment is not received."
The bill will be followed by a second bill for $12 million for the cost of recovering the containers and their contents, which were lost from the YM Efficiency in heavy seas June 2018.
AMSA awarded a $15 million contract to marine services company Ardent Oceania Pty Ltd for the recovery of the containers, which are located between Port Stephens and Lake Macquarie.
The company will bring a specialist vessel from Asia for the project, which will involve a team of 25 salvage experts.
The operation, planned for March, weather permitting, will involve the use a remotely operated underwater vehicle and cranes and a custom-built metal basket that will be used to lift the containers from the sea floor.
The custom-made basket will encapsulate each container so no content or debris can escape.
The containers and contents will be brought back to the Port of Newcastle.
Yang Ming's Australian representative, Aus Ship Lawyers & Correspondents did not comment about the unpaid bill on Friday.
It has previously it has committed significant resources into the clean up and supporting affected stakeholders.
"Yang Ming has consistently funded and assisted with efforts that ensure the best result for the local fishing industry and environment," a spokesman said in December.
"This includes providing sonar equipment to impacted fishermen and salvage operations to keep Australian beaches clean which have been approved and complimented by Australian government departments."
"We reject any notion that we have shirked responsibility and have dedicated significant resources towards limiting the impact on both the fishermen and locals on the beach."
AMSA held several community briefings in the past week to update the community about the salvage operation.