Firm to re­ceive up to $70m in new hunt

KUALA Lumpur, Malaysia — Malaysia signed a deal with an Amer­i­can firm on Wed­nes­day to re­sume the search for MH370 al­most four years af­ter the plane dis­ap­peared, with the com­pany to re­ceive up to $70 mil­lion if suc­cess­ful.

The Manica Post - - Foreign/Sport -

THE new hunt, which will last 90 days, is ex­pected to start in mid-Jan­uary when a high-tech ves­sel leased by the seabed ex­plo­ration firm, Ocean In­fin­ity, reaches a new search zone in the south­ern In­dian Ocean.

The Malaysia Air­lines jet dis­ap­peared in March 2014 with 239 peo­ple — mostly from China — on board en route from Kuala Lumpur to Bei­jing, trig­ger­ing one of the world’s great­est avi­a­tion mys­ter­ies.

No sign of the plane was found in a 120 000 square kilo­me­tre search zone se­lected by satel­lite anal­y­sis of the jet’s likely tra­jec­tory. The Aus­tralian-led sea search, the largest in avi­a­tion his­tory, was sus­pended in Jan­uary last year.

But three firms sub­mit­ted bids to re­sume the hunt pri­vately and af­ter lengthy ne­go­ti­a­tions, the Malaysian gov­ern­ment agreed to en­gage Ocean In­fin­ity on a “no find, no fee” ba­sis.

“I would like to re­it­er­ate our un­wa­ver­ing com­mit­ment to­wards solv­ing the mys­tery of MH370,” Trans­port Min­is­ter Liow Tiong Lai said Wed­nes­day at a sign­ing cer­e­mony for the deal.

The new search zone is an area of ap­prox­i­mately 25,000 square kilo­me­tres in the In­dian Ocean.

If the com­pany finds the Boe­ing 777, the amount they are paid will de­pend on where it was lo­cated, said Liow.

If it is found within the first 5,000 square kilo­me­tres, they will re­ceive $20 mil­lion. The amount rises grad­u­ally to a max­i­mum of $70 mil­lion if the jet is found out­side the 25,000 square kilo­me­tre search zone.

Rel­a­tives of MH370 pas­sen­gers wel­comed the de­ci­sion.

“We are grate­ful the Malaysian gov­ern­ment is re­sum­ing the search for MH370,” V. P. R. Nathan, whose wife Anne Daisy was on the plane, told AFP.

“We do not know what hap­pened, we need to know what hap­pened be­fore we can get clo­sure.”

The ship that will con­duct the hunt is a Nor­we­gian re­search ves­sel named Seabed Con­struc­tor, which is car­ry­ing 65 crew mem­bers and set off from South Africa in early Jan­uary for the search zone.

It is car­ry­ing eight au­ton­o­mous drones, equipped with sonars and cam­eras, that will scour the wa­ters in the hunt for the wreck­age and can op­er­ate in depths up to 6,000 me­tres (20,000 feet).

Only three con­firmed frag­ments of MH370 have been found, all of them on western In­dian Ocean shores, in­clud­ing a two-me­tre wing part known as a flap­eron.

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