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$8.2m bill to remove island wreck. Picture: Michael Wilson
The West Australian $8.2m bill to remove island wreck. Picture: Michael Wilson

An $8.2 million taxpayer-funded operation to remove the wreck of a ship which crashed into cliffs on Christmas Island almost five months ago will start soon.

But it will take at least two months to finish the job.

The MV Tycoon was ripped from its berth and was snapped in two by a big swell in Flying Fish Cove on January 9.

The ship, which was still attached to the port's loading crane, blocked the island's only port and spewed oil into waters renowned for their unique marine life. The Federal Government allocated funds to salvage the ship in this month's Budget after months of wrangling between the ship's owner and its insurer failed to get the wreck removed.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said salvage experts would arrive on the island this week but warned it would take at least two months to remove the wreck and repair the crane.

Christmas Island administrator Brian Lacy was disappointed it was taking so long to remove the wreck.

"Most of the ship has broken up," he said. "Only one large piece is left and the engine block has fallen to the bottom."

A spokesman for the Department of Regional Australia said the Government was seeking to recover the removal costs from the ship's Singapore-based owner, Tycoon Navigation SA.

The MV Tycoon, which made regular trips from Indonesia to Christmas Island to take phosphate from the island's mine, was described by shipping authorities as a "piece of junk with a string of deficiencies over its chequered life".