Cargo owners have begun lodging claims against the charterers of the crippled Rena, and other customers left with half-empty homes face weeks waiting to learn the fate of their goods on board.
The charterer, the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), is in limbo as it waits for the ship's owners, Costamare Shipping, to formally declare whether the Rena is considered to be still on its voyage.
If the ship is declared to be not on a "continuing voyage", salvors will have some rights to the cargo, said MSC's NZ general manager, Phil Abraham.
Uncertainty over whether the containers will be recovered has meant customers, many with house-hold possessions on board, can not make claims to their insurers.
Mr Abraham said some large shipping companies with cargo on board had already lodged claims with his firm.
"We are dealing with those but we are having to wait to see what the owners and salvors are going to do."
A barge with a crane was waiting for all of the Rena's oil to be pumped off before it could start lifting off the 1280 containers.
Inside them is everything from timber, wool, clothing and appliances to cars such as a Ford Mustang and a 1972 Holden Monaro GTS.
Maritime law expert Peter Dawson said insured customers would not lose any of their goods to the salvors. Any salvage awards would come from insurers.