Crew members watch the launching the Phoenix Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Artemis, on April 17, 2014. The hunt for flight 370 is the longest for a missing passenger jet in modern aviation history. Photographer: LSIS Bradley Darvill/Australia Department of Defence via Getty Images
Investigators hunting for Flight 370 (MAS) are seeking more sophisticated submarines to dive deeper into the Indian Ocean as private companies take a greater role in the search for the missing Malaysian plane.
The ocean floor will be mapped anew and tenders will be issued to procure new sub-sea vessels, Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said today. The next phase may cost about A$60 million ($56 million) and discussions are needed with Malaysia and China on sharing the expense, Truss said. Meetings will start May 7 in Canberra, the Australian capital that’s the new headquarters of the operations, to analyze data collected and to discuss what assets are required and available.
Only a limited amount of equipment worldwide is up to the task of finding the Malaysian Airline System Bhd. jet and tenders will be issued to get them. Malaysia and China both vowed to continue with the hunt, the world’s longest for a missing passenger jet in modern aviation history.
The operation is “entering a new phase that will now be focused on intensifying the search of the ocean floor over a larger area,” according to a communique issued after the tripartite meeting. “While we are preparing for this new phase, dedicated vessels from Australia, Malaysia and China will continue maritime operations to maintain continuity and momentum,” it said.
Officials from Malaysia, China and Australia met in Canberra today to shape the new phase after a 58-day multination hunt by planes, ships and submarines found no debris and couldn’t pinpoint pings consistent with transmissions from flight recorders. The search may go on for as long as 12 months depending on weather conditions, Angus Houston, who heads Australia’s Joint Agency Coordination Centre, said May 2.
So far, each country has borne its own cost for the search, Malaysia’s Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said today. Costs going forward depends on the assets that are available with governments and those taken from elsewhere.
“We’ll be looking at increased involvement from the manufacturers and their host countries,” Hishammuddin said.
The Bluefin-21 submersible will continue with its missions to dive deep, using sonar in an effort to find debris. An Australian aircraft will also be on standby. The tender will aim to identify a single operator to maintain and lead the private-sector’s efforts in the search, Truss said. A single submarine may not be capable of carrying out all the tasks, and more submersible equipment may be needed, Truss said.