KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia said it was still negotiating with a United States seabed exploration company on a "no-find, no-fee" arrangement to recover a Malaysian Airlines jetliner that vanished in March 2014 in the Indian Ocean.
The Malaysian statement was issued yesterday after Australia's Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester was quoted on Thursday as saying that Malaysia has agreed on such a deal with the company, Ocean Infinity.
Malaysia Airlines' Flight 370 that was flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing disappeared from radar screens on March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board.
This sparked a massive underwater search in the remote southern Indian Ocean which ended in January. But no trace of the jetliner was found despite the scouring of a 120,000 sq km zone that cost some A$200 million (S$213 million).
Media reports in the last two days said Malaysia has awarded the "no cure, no fee" deal to Ocean Infinity. But the government said it was still in talks with the firm on the MH370 search.
"At this juncture, the Malaysian government has yet to arrive into an agreement with Ocean Infinity for the search of MH370 as widely reported in the media recently," said Datuk Seri Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, director-general of Malaysia's Department of Civil Aviation and head of the MH370 Response Team.
"Once the negotiation is completed and the terms and conditions have been agreed with Ocean Infinity, the Malaysian government will then seek agreement from the governments of Australia and China to proceed with the search of MH370 in the spirit of tripartite cooperation," he said in a statement.
The next-of-kin and families of those on board MH370 will then be notified before the government could make an announcement on the matter, he added.
Reuters reported on Thursday that the company beat out competition to resume the search from Dutch firm Fugro and an unidentified Malaysian company.
Fragments of MH370 have been found washed up on western Indian Ocean shores, including a 2m-long wing part known as a flaperon.
At the time the search was suspended, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau released findings from international and scientists from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation that identified a smaller 25,000 sq km area that they said has "a high probability" of containing the aircraft.