The Australian government says it is seeking at least 120 million Australian dollars ($90 million) from the owners of a Chinese coal ship that damaged part of the Great Barrier Reef.

Shenzhen Energy Transport is fighting the clean-up bill in the Australian Federal Court on Tuesday for Douglas Shoal, which was damaged when the Shen Neng 1 went off course and grounded in April 2010.

The Federal Court heard that the crash site was contaminated with hundreds of kilograms (pounds) of paint particles tainted with a highly-toxic, anti-fouling agent.

The carrier's owner says the reef is self-healing and the company should not have to pay for a clean-up that was not needed.