The Australian Maritime Safety Authority says it could take a year to recover $A5 million spent responding to the shipwreck of a freighter on Christmas Island.
The MV Tycoon broke up after being dashed against rocks on the island in January, spilling oil and blocking the port.
The ABC reports the agency handled the immediate clean-up and was then forced to salvage the wreck after the ship's owners refused to clear the site.
It is now working to recover the salvage bill as well as clean-up costs, but says it will be a long process.
"There's a lot of paperwork, stuff you have to pull together to submit a claim to the insurers," said marine divison general manager Toby Stone. "So that all takes time.
"Within a year we hope to have some settlement."