Asia

MH370: Private company plans to resume plane search

A message says: "MH370 we miss you" Image copyright AFP/Getty
Image caption MH370 disappeared with 239 people on board

A private salvage company has moved a vessel towards a possible search area for flight MH370, hoping to find the plane that disappeared in 2014.

US firm Ocean Infinity says it hopes to be awarded the contract for resuming the search for the missing plane soon.

The exploration firm will not get paid for the search itself but will receive millions of dollars if successful.

Flight MH370 fell off radar on 8 March 2014 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, with 239 people on board.

Its fate remains shrouded in mystery and the search operation for the plane was suspended in January last year.

How did MH370 disappear?

The Malaysia Airlines flight took off for Beijing and should have flown on a north-eastward route over Cambodia and Vietnam, into China.

A few hours into the flight, the plane stopped sending communications, and the little information there is suggests the plane turned west and started flying south.

Tracking data released by the Malaysian authorities appeared to confirm that the plane crashed in the Indian Ocean, south-west of Australia.

What's been found so far?

The search for MH370 was one of the largest surface and underwater searches in aviation history and involved Australia, Malaysia and China.

The massive operation covered 120,000 sq km (46,332 sq miles) at an estimated cost of about A$200m (£120m; €133m), before it was suspended in January 2017 after 1,046 days.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption A part of the wing was found on the French island of Reunion

Although the underwater search turned up nothing, small pieces of debris from the plane were washed up on islands in the Indian Ocean and on the African coast.

Why was the search called off?

The Australian-led search was scheduled to end in January 2017.

By that time, the underwater drones and sonar equipment deployed from specialist ships combing the Southern Indian Ocean had turned up nothing.

Although new analysis towards the end of 2016 suggested the plane might be further north than the original search area, the hunt was not extended.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Searchers combed the southern reaches of the Indian Ocean

How is the new search operation different?

Ocean Infinity has leased a Norwegian research ship for the search. According to media reports, the vessel carries several autonomous submarines in the hope of being able to search much faster than the last operation.

The search will also be conducted in a much smaller area identified by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau. The 25,000 sq km (9,700 sq miles) area is to the north of the earlier search zone in the southern Indian Ocean.

The US company has not revealed the estimated cost of the operation.

The firm is operating the search on a centuries-old model known in the salvage industry as "no cure-no pay" - a type of deal common in the recovery of valuable sunken cargo.

Under such a deal, Ocean Infinity would shoulder the cost for the search and only get paid if it does indeed find the plane.

A company spokesperson told the BBC: "Ocean Infinity is hopeful of receiving the final contract award for the resumption of the search for MH370 over the coming days.

"With a relatively narrow weather window, we are moving the vessel, Seabed Constructor, towards the vicinity of the possible search zone. This is designed to save time should the contract award be forthcoming, as hoped."

Malaysia's Deputy Transport Minister Aziz Kaprawi told journalists that negotiations with Ocean Infinity were in the final stages and that the government was "very serious" about their offer.

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