PUTRAJAYA • Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said yesterday that the time has come to stop the hunt for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, after a three-month search carried out by an America-based firm officially ended on Tuesday without making major progress.
"We have not found any evidence yet, so we have to come to a stage where we cannot keep searching for something we really cannot find," Tun Dr Mahathir said at a press conference held after the weekly Cabinet meeting.
He added that the new government will consider resuming the search if somebody can provide information, but at the moment it must stop.
"We regret it very much, and we understand the feelings of the relatives, but we cannot keep on searching for this MH370 forever," he said.
The search led by Ocean Infinity, which agreed to a "no find, no fee" arrangement, started in January and officially stopped on Tuesday.
By deploying multiple autonomous underwater vehicles, along with the search vessel Seabed Constructor, the company searched and collected high-quality data from over 112,000 sq km of ocean floor, overcoming challenging conditions and terrain, according to a statement released on Tuesday.
Mr Oliver Plunkett, Ocean Infinity's chief executive officer, said: "Part of our motivation for renewing the search was to try to provide some answers to those affected.
"It is therefore with a heavy heart that we end our current search without having achieved that aim."
Flight MH370, carrying 239 people, vanished en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014, becoming one of the world's greatest aviation mysteries.
The plane, a Boeing 777, deviated from its planned route north on the fateful day, for reasons that are still unknown.
After travelling south over the Indian Ocean, the plane is believed to have flown for about five hours before probably running out of fuel and disappearing.
Debris that might have come from the plane has washed up in Madagascar, Reunion Island and Tanzania.
The governments of Australia, Malaysia and China suspended the official search after scrutinising about 120,000 sq km of the Indian Ocean floor at a cost of more than US$150 million (S$201 million).
Officials then concluded that the probable crash site was farther north.
The Malaysian government began the latest search in partnership with Ocean Infinity after pressure from families of the missing.
But the investigators came no closer to finding the plane.
"We sincerely hope that we will be able to again offer our services in the search for MH370 in future," said Mr Plunkett.
Malaysia's Transport Minister Anthony Loke said a full report into MH370's disappearance will be published in the near future.
"I can assure you the final report will be published with full disclosure.
"There will not be any edits, or anything hidden," he told reporters late on Monday.
XINHUA, REUTERS, NYTIMES