Maritime New Zealand has charged the owner of the Rena, following the ship's grounding on the Astrolabe Reef off Tauranga last year.
A charge in relation to the discharge of harmful substances from ships in the coastal marine area, has been laid in Tauranga District Court against the Daina shipping company in Greece.
The charge carries a maximum fine of $NZ600,000 and $NZ10,000 for every day the offending continues.
Maritime New Zealand says Daina is the registered owner of the Rena and has overall responsibility for the operation of the ship.
Proceedings will begin on 25 May.
Call to overhaul Resource Management Act
The Government is facing calls to overhaul the Resource Management Act because the maximum penalty faced by the owners of the shipwrecked Rena will not cover the cost of the clean up.
The Daina Shipping Company, which is based in Greece, has been charged under the Act with discharging a harmful substance from a ship into the coastal environment.
The maximum penalty is $600,000 plus $10,000 for each day of offending while the total cost of the disaster is $130 million.
Thames-Coromandel district council chief executive David Hammond says if the company is convicted, the fine will only cover a fraction of the cost the community has borne from the oil spill off the coast of Tauranga.
More pollution to come
Meanwhile, Maritime New Zealand says there is potential for debris from the container ship to come ashore for many months.
The wreck has been battered by rough seas this week in the Bay of Plenty, resulting in 16 containers going overboard and more debris and oil spilling from the ship.
The stern section has also slid further into the water with about 97% of it now fully submerged.
Environmental cleanup company Braemar Howells says varying amounts of debris has come ashore from Papamoa through to Tairua.
Maritime New Zealand's Rena recovery response manager Dave Billington says it will be some time before the threat of debris spills will be gone because there are still containers on the ship.