Today marks the fourth anniversary of Flight MH370 when the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 went missing enroute to Beijing.
The fate of MH370 remains one of aviation history’s greatest mysteries. The search for the plane is also reported to be the most expensive in the history of search missions, costing US$157 million (RM612 million). The search was called off by the Malaysian, Australian and Chinese authorities in January last year, after covering more than 120,000 sq km of seabed.
But, the Malaysian government has not given up on finding MH370. In January this year, Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai announced the signing of a “no cure, no fee” agreement with Houston-based Ocean Infinity.
According to a Reuters report, the agreement is multi-tiered: Ocean Infinity will be paid US$20 million if the plane is found within 5,000sq km, US$30 million if it is found within 10,000sq km and US$50 million if it is found within an area of 25,000sq km.
Should the plane be found beyond 25,000sq km, Ocean Infinity will receive US$70 million. The “no cure, no fee” agreement comes with a 90-day limit.
However, the 90-day duration will be spread over a few months as the Seabed Constructor has to refuel in Australia after a 26-day working cycle. Plus, waiting on weather is not factored in as part of the 90-day period. Bad weather is not uncommon in the search area.
The multi-million dollar Seabed Constructor that is fitted with a sophisticated automatic identification system is focusing on a 25,000sq km area in the Indian Ocean identified by the Australian Transportation Safety Board as the most likely location where the Boeing 777 is expected to be resting.
The vessel is deploying a series of multi-sensor autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) in the search.
Two Malaysian naval officers and Ocean Infinity data QC manager Andrew Sherell, who helped locate Air France Flight 447, which crashed in the Atlantic Ocean in 2009, are said to be in the search team as well. The sophistication of the vessel and equipment as well as the expertise involved in the search gives hope in Ocean Infinity finding MH370 that has eluded four years of search. This is hopeful news for the families of flight MH370 passengers. Consider the AUV as an example of the sophistication of the search.
Each AUV can cover 1,191 sq km per day reaching depths up to 6km, many times the rate of previous searches. In fact, Liow said while announcing the signing of the agreement that there was an 85 per cent chance of finding debris in the new search area.
To date, 20 pieces of debris believed to be from MH370 have washed up on beaches around the Indian Ocean and Africa. With Ocean Infinity onboard now, we hope the plane will be finally found, thus enabling the families of flight MH370 passengers to have closure.