The US company pitching to undertake a “no find, no fee” search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 has reported good progress with its bid but says it cannot yet confirm it has a contract.
Sources have told AirlineRatings 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 as the winning candidate, although Dutch company Fugro, which conducted the original search, is believed to have countered with a low-fee bid.
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’’.
An OI spokesman said Wednesday: “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.”
Attempts by AirlineRatings to obtain comment from the Malaysian Government have been unsuccessful but Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai told reporters in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday that no decision on resuming the search had been made.
Liow said three companies — Ocean Infinity, Fugro and a Malaysian firm — had pitched to conduct the search.
“We won’t be deciding anything now on whether we are embarking on a new search or not,” Liow said in a Reuters report. “We have to discuss with the companies. It will take some time as it’s some detailed discussions.”
The Malaysian Minister said the proposals would be presented to China and Australia before a decision was taken.
But Australian officials have made it clear they consider the decision one for Malaysia.
“Any decision to recommence the search is primarily a matter for Malaysia,’’ Australian Transport Minister Darren Chester said on Tuesday. “As the state of registry of the aircraft and lead investigator, it would be up to Malaysia to consider any offers from the private sector.
“If required, we would closely consider any further requests for technical assistance from the Malaysian Government.”
Families of MH370 victims are keen to see the search resumed after it was suspended in January despite recommendations by experts that it continue.
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 with 239 souls on board, 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.
Meanwhile, Malaysia Airlines is again on the hunt for a chief executive after the surprise announcement current boss Peter Bellew would return to Irish budget carrier Ryanair as chief operating officer from December 1.