US firm launches high-tech ship to search for MH370

KUALA LUMPUR • An American exploration firm said it has sent a high-tech vessel 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 yesterday it was sending a research vessel to the zone in the southern Indian Ocean and 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 Ocean Infinity told Agence France-Presse.

"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 this month and the next. The vessel is carrying several autonomous submarines which can be launched from the ship to scour the seabed for the jet.

Malaysian Deputy Transport Minister Aziz Kaprawi confirmed that negotiations with Ocean Infinity were in the final stages: "They know we are very serious in taking their offer."

Ocean Infinity was one of three companies that had bid to resume the hunt.

Australia's national science body Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation released a report in April suggesting that 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.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 04, 2018, with the headline 'US firm launches high-tech ship to search for MH370'. Print Edition | Subscribe