MH370 Search Winding Down
There is currently only one vessel searching for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), leading the search, announced this week that the Fugro Discovery is departing the search area and heading to Singapore to be readied for its next project, unrelated to the search for MH370.
The Boeing 777 disappeared in March 2014, with 239 on board, while on a flight from the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, to Beijing.
At this time, the Fugro Equator is left on site, which is in its final stages, with less than 10,000 square kilometres left to be searched. The Dong Hai Jiu 101, also involved in the search, arrived in Fremantle on August 8 for a scheduled port visit.
Almost A$180 million ($135 million) has been spent since then on an underwater search spanning 120,000 square kilometers (46,332 square miles) in the southern Indian Ocean.
Fugro Discovery was brought from the United Kingdom to Fremantle in 2014 to join the search. After the search crew and equipment were mobilised, and following extensive sea trials and equipment testing, the vessel travelled to the search area where it commenced underwater search operations on October 23, 2014.
Since that time, Fugro Discovery has conducted a total of 16 search expeditions, each generally around 40 days at sea. On each voyage there have typically been around 30 personnel on the vessel including the ship’s crew and the search operation specialists. In addition to the 51,000 square kilometres of the ocean floor searched by Fugro Discovery, the vessel has also travelled around 80,000 kilometres during its 16 transits from port to the search area and return.
More than 110,000 square kilometres of the seafloor have been searched so far. At a meeting of Ministers from Malaysia, Australia and the People’s Republic of China held on 22 July 2016, it was agreed that should the aircraft not be located in the current search area, and in the absence of credible new evidence leading to the identification of a specific location of the aircraft, the search would be suspended upon completion of the 120,000 square kilometre search area.
Ministers went to great lengths to explain that this does not mean the termination of the search; should credible new information emerge which can be used to identify the specific location of the aircraft, consideration will be given to determining next steps.