KUALA LUMPUR – Four ships are combing the sea floor of a remote area in the Indian Ocean, in search of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 aircraft which vanished on March 8, last year.
The ships are a Malaysian-contracted US$21 million ship, Go Phoenix, and three Malaysia-Australia contracted ships, Fugro Equator, Fugro Discovery and Fugro Supporter for the underwater Search and Recovery (SAR) operation for the aircraft.
Each of the search vessels has been fitted with sophisticated underwater sonar equipment designed to use a towed device to examine the bottom of the ocean floor for abnormalities that may be remnants of the Boeing 777-200ER aircraft.
When launching the Go Phoenix ship in Perth, Australia on Oct 22, last year, Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein said the ship was the first privately sponsored by Petronas to be involved in the search.
He said the Australian Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) coordinated the search and was working closely with the Malaysian Government.
The decision to engage in the underwater search came after a four-month hiatus in August last year when the first search phase was brought to a halt, following the loss of ultrasonic pulse ‘ping’ signals with a frequency of 37.5kHz which resembled an aircraft’s blackbox signal.
The signal transmitted by the flight data recorder in a blackbox can operate about 30 days before its battery runs out of power.
The plane has not been found despite detection of four pulse signals. The first pulse signal was detected by a Chinese ship, Haixun 01 on April 5 and the rest by Australian vessels on April 8.
The fate of the jetliner which was enroute to Beijing, China is still unknown although it was officially announced that its path ended in the southern Indian Ocean.
With 239 passengers on board, the Boeing 777-200ER went missing after it took off from the KL International Airport at 12.41am.
On Jan 12, Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said Malaysia was in the midst of discussions with Australia and China to engage a fourth vessel, ‘Fugro Supporter’, to assist in the search as there was a need to deploy more equipment due to difficulties faced by the search mission in the southern Indian Ocean.
In a statement yesterday, JACC said 18,000 sq km of the seafloor had been searched, which constituted about 30 per cent of the priority search area.
“On Jan 21, GO Phoenix recommenced search operations, following the suspension caused by ex-Tropical Cyclone Bansi.
“Fugro Equator and Fugro Discovery continue underwater search operations. Fugro Supporter is anticipated to arrive in the search area in the next few days,” it said. – BERNAMA