Malaysia hires U.S. firm to resume search for missing MH370

Xinhua Published: 2018-01-10 14:53:14
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A U.S. exploration firm was mandated by the Malaysian government on Wednesday to resume search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 aircraft, possibly the last attempt to solve one of the biggest mysteries in aviation history.

A Malaysian child holds a balloon and gets his face painted for the victims of the missing MH370 airplane in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on March 04, 2017, in commemoration of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370. [File photo: IC/Alexandra Radu]

A Malaysian child holds a balloon and gets his face painted for the victims of the missing MH370 airplane in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on March 04, 2017, in commemoration of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370. [File photo: IC/Alexandra Radu]

At a press conference following a signing ceremony between Malaysia's Ministry of Transport and U.S. firm Ocean Infinity, Malaysia's Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said the search operation will be at an area of 25,000 square km within the priority search area in Southern Indian Ocean based on a "no cure, no fee" basis within a 90-day timeframe.

According to Liow, currently a vessel named Seabed Constructor is on her way to the search area, taking advantage of favorable weather to move toward to the search zone. It is expected that the ship will arrive at the search zone by mid-January.

The primary mission by Ocean Infinity is to identify the location of the wreckage and/or both of the flight recorders, namely the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder, said Liow.

Per the agreement reached between the two parties, the payment to Ocean Infinity will be subject to the area where the wreckage is located. A total of 20 million U.S. dollars will be paid if the plane was found within the first 5,000 square km scoured. The payment stands at 30 million U.S. dollars for the subsequent 10,000 and 50 million U.S. dollars for another 10,000 square km.

In addition, the Malaysian government agrees to pay 70 million U.S. dollars if the plane was found beyond the 25,000 square km area recommended by investigators from Australia.

Oliver Plunkett, CEO of Ocean Infinity, said the search vessel, equipped with eight underwater autonomous vehicles packed with sensors, detectors and cameras, is capable to comb some 1,200 square km per day, much faster than previous search efforts, which means they will finish the whole 25,000 square km search area within three or four weeks. He said his firm will have 60 days to continue the search beyond the designated area.

Plunkett said further analysis from scientists, the fact that there had been a search covering 120,000 square km and Ocean Infinity's approach to carry out the search made him more confident about this search. 

He also noted that the company has in their team people involved with experience in Air France crash in north Atlantic in 2009. 

According to Liow, the whole payment will be undertaken solely by the Malaysian government but the governments of China and Australia will be kept in touch about the progress.

Shim Kok Chau, a member of the next-of-kin for MH370 passengers, also witnessed the signing ceremony. He said his hope to find an answer to the missing plane was reignited with the new search, "in a similar way to the nervousness and anxiety he felt almost four years ago with the first search operation."

The new search area is said to be just north of a previous area covering an area of 120,000 square km, which was scoured by the governments of Malaysia, China and Australia but found nothing.

MH370, carrying 239 on board, went missing en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014.

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