Fugro’s fleet of seismic vessels are normally tasked with surveying duties offshore for the oil and gas industry, but the company is playing a vital role in another area. The Fugro Supporter is set to join the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. The flight took off on March 8, 2014, with 239 passengers. But the Boeing 777 plane never made it to its destination of Kuala Lumpur. The disappearance sparked massive search efforts to no avail. The addition of the seismic vessel will be Fugro’s third vessel to join the search.
In a news release, the company said the multipurpose offshore survey vessel was en route to the Southern Indian Ocean search area following trials in Bali. “The vessel is equipped with a Kongsberg HUGIN 4500 autonomous underwater vehicle, which will be used to scan those portions of the search area that cannot be searched effectively by the equipment on other vessels,” Fugro said in the release.
The news comes after Fugro Equator, a 65-m (213-ft) survey vessel, wrapped up a bathymetric survey of about 208,000 sq km (80,309 sq miles) on the seafloor. The company said seabed data were collected and transmitted to the ATSB for processing by Geoscience Australia. “The resulting bathymetric maps of the seabed assisted in planning subsequent stages of the MH370 search and ensured safe and effective operation of the underwater search equipment,” Fugro said.
Another seismic vessel, the first to join the search, has continued deepwater search operations since October 2014. Fugro said the Fugro Discovery is equipped with specialist deep tow survey systems, including side scan sonar, underwater video and aviation fuel detection sensors. Fugro Supporter also has been modified to be equipped with similar equipment.
Seismic vessels have played an important role in finding hydrocarbons buried deep below the earth’s surface. Hopefully, this team of three vessels will help lead authorities to the missing plane, bringing answers and closure to this tragic accident. “In addition to locating the missing Boeing 777 aircraft, the underwater search aims to map the MH370 debris field in order to identify and prioritize the recovery of specific aircraft components, including flight data recorders, which will assist with the Malaysian investigation,” Fugro said in the release.
On March 7, Malaysia's Department of Civil Aviation is scheduled to release an interim report on the investigation into the missing flight. Reuters reported that the findings from an international investigative team, established in April 2014, also will be part of the report. The international team consists of the U.S. National Transport Safety Board, Britain's Air Accidents Investigations Branch, China's Aircraft Accident Investigation Department, France's Land Transport Accident Investigation Bureau, the Australia Transport Bureau, Boeing and Inmarsat, a British satellite communications company.