A new phase in the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 has opened with the trilateral talks in Canberra Monday deciding to carry it out over a larger area of the southern Indian Ocean.
Acting Transport Minister of Malaysia Hishammuddin Hussein, Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss and Chinese Transport Minister Yang Chuantang called for the continuation with the new phase of the search, adding that it was an opportunity for other nations and research institutes to join in the operations, the Canberra Times reported.
“We obviously have no idea when it’s likely to be found. Just to find and acquire the equipment for the next phase would likely take four to six weeks,” Warren Truss said during the meeting.
Truss also said that one of the key elements would be to undertake more detailed oceanographic mapping of prospective search areas, most of which has never been looked at before.
“For the next stage involving sonar and other autonomous vehicles, potentially at very great depths, we need to have an understanding of the ocean floor to be able to undertake that kind of search effectively and safely,” Truss said.
A dedicated team of vessels from Australia, Malaysia and China will continue the search in the new phase, and an Australian P-3 Orion jet will also be available to follow up any lead.
Truss has announced that more meetings would commence Wednesday in Canberra with international experts to analyse all the data and information collected so far.
A total of 4.64 million sq km of ocean floor has been searched, but no sign of the wreckage from the missing plane has been found so far.
The new search phase could approximately cost up to A$60 million (around $55.6 million).
Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield has returned to Fleet Base West and will conduct routine search with Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Bluefin-21, the Joint Agency Coordination Centre said Monday.
The US Navy will continue sub-surface search effort with the Bluefin-21 side scan sonar for approximately four more weeks, JACC said.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 vanished mysteriously about an hour after taking off for Beijing from Kuala Lumpur shortly after midnight March 8.
The Boeing 777-200ER was scheduled to land in Beijing the same morning. The 227 passengers on board included five Indians, 154 Chinese and 38 Malaysians. (ians)