KUALA LUMPUR (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) - Malaysia's new Transport Minister said the search for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 by a private US firm will end on Tuesday (May 29) next week and there will be no more extensions.
Houston-based Ocean Infinity has been searching for the aircraft that disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board, in one of the world's greatest aviation mysteries.
"This morning I raised this in Cabinet and agreed to extend to May 29," Mr Anthony Loke told reporters.
Asked if that meant no more extensions, he said: "Yes."
The decision to end the search comes as new Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad reins in government spending.
The contract to find the jet, missing since 2014, is under review, Dr Mahathir said after his first Cabinet meeting on Wednesday (May 23).
The government in January agreed to pay Ocean Infinity as much as US$70 million (S$93.99 million) if it solves what has become modern aviation's biggest mystery.
"We want to know what is the necessity for this, and if we find that it is not necessary, we will not renew," Dr Mahathir, who returned to power in a shock election triumph this month, told reporters in Putrajaya. "We may terminate it if it's not useful."
Ocean Infinity's search vessel, Seabed Constructor, has already scoured 86,000 square kilometres of seabed in the southern Indian Ocean without success, according to the latest weekly report on the operation.
That area includes the patch that investigators identified as the aircraft's most likely resting place before the search was abandoned in 2017.
"We are approaching the end of the current search, and the weather also soon becomes a limiting factor, but we're currently maximising our efforts whilst we can," a representative for Ocean Infinity said in an e-mail.
Investigators tracked MH370's route using satellite data and believe the plane headed south over the Indian Ocean for about six hours before plummeting into the water.