Ocean Infinity commits to new search for MH370 in 2023 or 2024

March 06, 2022
9M-MRO at Perth Airport in 2012. Credit: Alan Pepper

In a dramatic development, Ocean Infinity has committed to finding MH370 with a new search in early 2023 or 2024.

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Speaking at the 8th anniversary of the disappearance of MH370 Ocean Infinity CEO Oliver Plunkett (below) told the next of kin that the company was committed to finding the missing Boeing 777.

Below is the full presentation made by Mr. Plunkett.

“I was thinking how quickly eight years had gone by and how important it was that you are still here and still remembering and talking about this. The idea that there is still a search. I can tell you from our perspective, it is an almost daily conversation of when we’ll be able to get back to it. We had in our minds at the beginning of 2020, a plan, in terms of where our ships were going to be and our people were going to be. That we’d be able to get back to it. And obviously, the world changed a bit in the beginning of 2020, and the last couple of years have been [difficult] and ultimately that’s not been possible.

“For us though, it was the catalyst for quite a material change in how we’ve organized our business and what we’re doing. I’ve made some really brief slides to just give you a flavor of what we’ve been doing, over the last couple of years. And I’ll explain why that’s relevant and how that ties into thinking about doing the search again.

“So in 2020, we found ourselves with the vessels that we had and Seabed Constructor, which was the vessel we used for the search in 2018, and realized that wasn’t the future and that we needed to change our business. And what you can see there (below)

is the first two of what will now be 23 robotic ships. Those two there are 78 meters long and are capable of being operated with no people, entirely remotely. The significance of these two ships is that they’re currently being built in Vietnam. The first one, which is the one on the right-hand side, is about to go in the water for the first time. Those will be ready for us to use at the beginning of 2023.”

At this point, Mr. Plunkett showed a video of how the new ships and their AUVs would be controlled.

“The point really is that, for the last couple of years, as we transitioned through COVID, we’ve taken that step in technology and invested even more heavily. At the same time, we’ve not forgotten and as I say, the search for MH370 is almost a daily topic of conversation on one level or another. And the team has been doing two things. One is thinking about where we would search in 2023. And the second is reviewing the data from the original search to make sure that there was nothing that we missed.

“It is hard, perhaps, to comprehend the scale of the task and the size of the area we’re searching relative to the small size of what we’re looking for. Sub-sea search is difficult. So, looking back through the data, again and again, to check that we didn’t miss something is perfectly right. Let me explain to you what this picture (below) shows. Towards the top, in the middle, there’s a yellow dot. That’s a search box based on the work that Richard’s done. And we’ve been in close contact with him and the guys have reviewed that work. The red spot reflects a sort of center of where we might search, based on the work of other people from the independent group.

“Our view, I suppose, is more simplistic. And it says, “Look, the work these guys have done, it is credible, sensible, and worthwhile focusing on. But we’re not going to only search the immediate areas. If we’re going to go there, we’ll do both. And not only that but put a buffer around it all, so that you end up with all of the space to the left and the right of that seventh arc filled in.” The point at the bottom about 92 days is only to, for a reference, give the number of AUVs.

“So, the guys have been working, thinking about it, and we’ve got a plan. The point now is to say, for the first time since early 2020, we’ve got clarity on the plan for where we search. We’ve got clarity for the availability of our assets and therefore, we’re in a position to sensibly re-engage in the conversation and say, to the Malaysian government, that we’re ready to go back and carry on. We will of course, approach it on the same basis as we did before, which is, as Grace says, that kind of, “no win, no fee.”

“And so hopefully, all being well, we will be in a position to go back in early 2023. There’s a lot of work for us to do. To get the ships ready, for the guys to carry on doing the planning, to talk to the government, to get ourselves organized.

“Hopefully, we’ll enjoy the same support from the Australian authorities (ATSB) as we did last time. These ships are different. They’re probably the most modern, cutting-edge ships in the entire world. And one of the things we’re dealing with is the regulatory framework for a ship that can be driven with no person on board because it doesn’t exist. So we’ll need support from the Australian government to operate too. But, it is our hope and desire to be back carrying on the search at some point in, certainly, the first half of 2023.

Mr Plunkett added that he agreed completely with the impassioned plea from former ATSB MH370 search director Peter Foley that we must find MH370

“Certainly the sentiment of what Pete Foley was saying is absolutely right. So, we totally agree with that. So it’s something that is important in itself, it’s important for you, and if you’re Ocean Infinity and you believe that you’re the best people in the world at sea-based search, it’s important for us.

“So it is not something that we’ve forgotten or we will forget, and we want to come and do it. There’s a lot of stuff to sort out between now and 2023. So, we’re going to try and make it happen. And if not, it’s 2024.

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