Malaysia to announce next week decision to resume search for MH370: Transport minister

The research vessel Seabed Constructor will be arriving in the search zone for the missing MH370 by mid-January.
The research vessel Seabed Constructor will be arriving in the search zone for the missing MH370 by mid-January. PHOTO: AFP

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP/THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysia is expected to announce its decision to resume the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 next week, the country's transport minister said on Wednesday (Dec 3), adding that the decision had been made with China and Australia.

"We are making preparations and we will announce it next week, after we finalise the contract," Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai told reporters at Putra World Trade Centre after US exploration firm Ocean Infinity said it had sent a high-tech vessel to the southern Indian Ocean in hopes of soon resuming the hunt for flight MH370, whose disappearance is one of aviation’s greatest mysteries. 

The Malaysia Airlines jet disappeared in March 2014 with 239 people – mostly from China – on board en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing after diverting from its flight path. 

No sign of the plane was found in a 120,000 sq km search zone selected by satellite analysis of the jet’s likely trajectory. The sea search – the largest in aviation history – was called off in January last year but looks set to resume soon. 

Exploration firm Ocean Infinity said earlier Wednesday it hopes to finalise a deal with the Malaysian government to restart the hunt in the coming days. 

“We are moving the vessel, Seabed Constructor, towards the vicinity of the possible search zone,” a spokesman for the company told AFP.  “This is designed to save time should the contract award be forthcoming, as hoped.”

The Norwegian research vessel being leased by Ocean Infinity set off from South Africa and was aiming to arrive in the search area by mid-January.  The firm wants to start the hunt, which will be on a “no find, no fee” basis, during a period of good weather expected in January and February. 

The vessel is carrying several autonomous submarines which can be launched from the ship to scour the seabed for the jet. Malaysia’s Deputy Transport Minister Aziz Kaprawi confirmed negotiations with Ocean Infinity were in the final stages: “They know we are very serious in taking their offer.”

Liow said the decision to resume the search had been made with the agreement of China and Australia, and declined to comment on the cost of the search if the plane was found.

Ocean Infinity was one of three companies which had bid to resume the hunt.  Australia’s national science body CSIRO released a report in April suggesting the doomed plane was “most likely” north of the former search zone in an area of approximately 25,000 sq km. 

Only three confirmed fragments of MH370 have been found, all of them on western Indian Ocean shores, including a two-metre wing part known as a flaperon.