A Tasmanian ship salvage expert who bought sunken circa-1895 wooden ketch Defender has sued Maritime Safety Queensland for $31 million over the dismantling of the ship in 2017.
Brett Devine filed the claim in the Supreme Court of Queensland earlier this month, with $26.3 million estimated as the cost to rebuild the Defender, $356,000 for loss of income and $4.4 million in interest.
Defender was owned by Tasmanian Les Dick when it sank on January 4, 2016, in Ross Creek in Townsville where it had been relocated in 2002 for Great Barrier Reef tourism.
The claim states MSQ issued a notice of removal which expired on February 29, but an insurer declined to salvage the ship so Mr Dick was asked to find his own salvor.
Mr Devine claims he bought Defender from Mr Dick on February 27 with the hope of salvaging the vessel - the last of its kind in the world.
He claims MSQ "denied absolutely" his right of possession of Defender, and took possession of the ship itself.
MORE ON DEFENDER'S FINAL YEARS:
It was dismantled in June, 2017, with artefacts on exhibition in the Townsville Maritime Museum.
Mr Devine claims MSQ acted "in a high handed way", "with malice and ill will" and for "an improper purpose".
He wants to rebuild Defender because of its status as an "historical ship".
MSQ has 28 days to respond.
Defender a 'unique' part of Tasmanian and Bass Strait history
Defender was built in 1895 as a cargo trader, taking Tasmanian timber to the mainland and bringing back general cargo with weekly crossings of the Bass Strait.
Despite groundings and refloatings, Defender remained in service for 40 years and set an unmatched record in 1923 for fastest Bass Strait crossing with cargo under sail.
The Australian Navy recruited Defender during World War Two, and it was classified by the National Trust of Australia in 1986.
Defender worked for six years as a tall ship sailing experience at the Great Barrier Reef from 2002.
It was the last surviving Bass Strait ketch.