Malaysian Transport Minister denies Australian paper's report on MH370 search to be resumed

Hand-written notes on how a crew member should report the sighting of debris in the southern Indian Ocean is pictured on a window aboard a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion aircraft searching for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, on March 22, 2014. PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai has denied a report by an Australian paper which claimed the government will announce on Wednesday (Oct 18) that the search for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 will resume.

Datuk Seri Liow on Tuesday denied that any decision had been made, but said the government was studying three proposals by three private firms after the Cabinet agreed that the MH370 Response Team, led by the Department of Civil Aviation, engage in detailed discussions with the firms.

Liow said the proposals were received from the US-based seabed exploration firm Ocean Infinity, Dutch firm Fugro and an unidentified Malaysian company.

He added that the process was still at the proposal stage and Malaysia would have to hold discussions with the Australian and Chinese governments before embarking on the search.

"We wont be deciding anything now on whether we are embarking on a new search or not," Reuters quoted Liow as telling reporters on the sidelines of an event in Kuala Lumpur.

"We have to discuss with the companies. It will take some time as it's some detailed discussions," he said.

The West Australian newspaper, citing sources linked to Kuala Lumpur, on Tuesday reported that the Malaysian government was studying search offers from private companies and was set to make an announcement on the search being resumed mid-week.

The report had named Ocean Infinity and Fugro as two of the firms.

Ocean Infinity's "no-find, no-fee" offer was said to have been the preferred choice out of the two, although Fugro, which had participated in the original search, was said to have made a counter-proposal offering a lower fee.

The location of Flight MH370 has become a mystery since the plane carrying 239 people on board disappeared en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur on March 8, 2014. Most of the passengers were Chinese.

The plane is thought to have been diverted thousands of kilometres off course out over the southern Indian Ocean before crashing off the coast of Western Australia.

The governments of Malaysia, Australia and China in January called off the search led by Canberra, despite protests from the passengers' families, after the A$200 million (S$213 million) hunt which was carried out for more than two years.

The Department of Civil Aviation said in August the MH370 Response Team was assessing several proposals from interested parties to search for the jetliner, Bernama reported.

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