KUALA LUMPUR, ( April 19 ) — Acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein on Saturday gave his assurance that the search for missing Malaysia Airlines (MAS) Flight 370 will continue despite plans to regroup and reassess the operation.
He said the search operation team under the Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) set up by Australia and other partners, would, however, consider other approaches including widening the scope of the search and utilising assets that could be relevant to the hunt which entered its 43rd day today.
Besides maintaining the deployment of the Bluefin-21 mini-submarine for the underwater search, Malaysian authorities were now looking at the possibility of adding more commercial assets in the operation, he told a media conference on the development of the hunt for the missing plane here today.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott had said the search operation would be regrouped and reconsidered if there were no new updates “in the next few days”.
“Here, companies like Deftech, DRB, Boustead and several Malaysian companies have met and discussed with their foreign counterparts on how we could increase AUVs (autonomous underwater vehicles) to help the search effort,” explained Hishammuddin.
Hishammuddin confirmed that the Bluefin-21, an AUV, had captured clear and sharp images of the seabed while conducting its underwater search missions.
“However, from all six missions conducted, no contacts of interest have been found to date,” he said, adding that the mini-submarine’s seventh mission started this morning.
He also dismissed media reports indicating that it would take the AUV between six weeks to two months to scan the entire underwater search area.
“This is incorrect. The immediate search area that the Bluefin-21 is now scouring should be completed within the next week,” he said.
The minister noted that it was now timely for the parties involved in the search operation to consider and discuss the use of submarines.
Beijing-bound Flight MH370 with 239 people aboard disappeared from radar screens while over the South China Sea after leaving the KL International Airport at 12.41 am on March 8. It was to have arrived in Beijing at 6.30 am on the same day.
A multinational search was mounted for the Boeing 777-200 aircraft, first in the South China Sea and then after it was learnt that the plane had veered off course, in the southern Indian Ocean.
Asked if the current search location based on inputs from the Inmarsat satellite needed to be relooked, Hishammuddin said it was imperative that the focus was given to the current area.
“At the moment, it’s important to focus on today and tomorrow based on discussions with the JACC, the narrowing of the search is at a very critical juncture. I appeal to everybody around the world to pray that we find something that we can work on,” he said.
He said the ministerial technical committee set up following the disappearance of the aircaft had drafted the proposed structure and Terms of Reference of the Aircraft Accident Investigation Team for MH370.
It is in accordance with the Malaysian Civil Aviation Regulations 1996 (MCAR 1996) and Annex 13 — Aircraft Accident and Incident Investigation, Chicago Convention.
Hishammuddin said the proposed team would comprise local and international experts.
“We’ve also spoken with the Asean secretariat on the possibility of apppointing some of our counterparts to come onboard,” he said.
Hishammuddin said he had also been in consultation with Jean-Paul Troadec, given his experience in handling the disappearance of Air France Flight 447, on the deployment of private commercial assets to assist in the MH370 search operation.
“As we move on to the next phase on the search, I’m humbled that more friends from other nations have expressed willingness to assist and support our efforts to locate MH370,” he concluded.—BERNAMA