Australia will provide technical assistance in a renewed search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 after the Malaysian Government Thursday confirmed to was negotiating with US company Ocean Infinity to resume the operation.
AirlineRatings has a copy of advice sent Thursday to MH370 families that says the MH370 Response team had looked at “several proposals” from interested parties including an offer by Ocean infinity to conduct the search on a no-find, no-fee basis.
“These offers have been thoroughly assessed by the team and the Governments of Australia and China have been informed of this in line with the spirit of tripartite cooperation,’’ the advice says.
“In this regard, the Government of Malaysia has given the permission for the response team to proceed negotiating the terms and conditions with Ocean Infinity.”
The head of the Malaysia’s Department of Civil Aviation, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, later said that once terms and conditions had been agreed with Ocean Infinity, the Malaysian Government would seek agreement with the Australian and Chinese governments to proceed.
“An official announcement will then be made towards this effect once all next-of-kin and families of those on board MH370 have been notified,” he said.
In a global exclusive, sources told AirlineRatings earlier this week that the Malaysians are planning to resume the search and there were expectations an announcement could be made as early as this week.
The offer by Ocean Infinity was tipped at the time as the winning candidate, although Dutch company Fugro, which conducted the original search, is believed to have countered with a low-fee bid.
The news has buoyed families after the Malaysians appeared to pour cold water on the idea earlier this week.
“I’m ecstatic,’’ said Danica Weeks, the widow of one of the passengers. “Today was very good news, I’m very glad.
“Somebody said to me ‘You want this don’t you?’ and I said ‘No I need this’. ”
Australian transport Minister Darren Chester late Thursday acknowledged the news, saying it showed Malaysia’s commitment to finding MH370.
“While I am hopeful of a successful search, I’m conscious of not raising hopes for the loved ones of those on board,” he said.
“Ocean Infinity will focus on searching the seafloor in an area that has previously been identified by experts as the next most likely location to find MH370.
“Australia, at Malaysia’s request, will provide technical assistance to the Malaysian Government and Ocean Infinity.”
Chester said no new information had been discovered to determine a specific location of the aircraft but Australia would provide data collected during the previous search.
“As always our thoughts are with the families and friends,’’ he said “I hope that this new search will bring answers, both for the next of kin and for the rest of the world.”
An Ocean Inifnity spokesman said on Wednesday it was making good progress with its bid but could not yet confirm it had a contract.
Ocean Infinity champions a system that uses six HUGIN autonomous underwater vehicles capable of operating at depths of up to 6000m to collect high-resolution data at what it says are “record-breaking speeds’’.
The OI spokesman said: “Ocean Infinity are not yet able to confirm the award of a contract to help in the search for MH370, but good progress has been made.
“We remain optimistic that we will be able to try and help provide some answers to those who have been affected by this tragedy.”
The Malaysians are expected to make an official announcement after they have completed telling the families of the 239 victims.
Australian scientists believe they have identified a probable site of the wreckage using new information from drift modelling and an analysis of satellite imagery.
The studies have significantly boosted confidence that the wreckage of the Boeing 777, which went missing in March 2014, is in the southern half of a 25,000 sq. km. search area identified by experts in 2016.
The scientists identified a location at latitude 35.6°S and longitude 92.8°E, near the seventh arc defined by satellite data, as the most likely location for the missing plane.