Govt expected to spend additional US$70m on search for MH370

Ocean Infinity will be conducting the search at a site south of the Indian Ocean, which exceeds 25,000 sq km

P Prem Kumar & D KanyakumariThe government is expected to set aside an allocation of up to US$70 million (RM296.34 million) to fund a private company to continue the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight MH370.

Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Ab Aziz Kaprawi told the Dewan Rakyat yesterday that between US$20 million and US$70 million will be allocated to the Transport Ministry to channel to Ocean Infinity, a private international exploration company.

He said the Cabinet decided on Oct 11 to accept an offer by US-based Ocean Infinity to search for the missing Boeing 777 aircraft that has been missing since March 2014.

“We have, in principal, agreed to accept the offer from Ocean Infinity to search for the MAS aircraft at a new site,” he said, responding to Kepong MP Dr Tan Seng Giaw who asked the government to state the latest MH370 search efforts.

Ab Aziz said the ministry, through its MH370 response team, would negotiate an agreement with Ocean Infinity including terms to say that the government will only need to pay the company if the missing plane is located within 90 days.

He said the company will be conducting the search at a site south of the Indian Ocean, which exceeds 25,000 sq km.

“The government is in the process of evaluating the fees to be paid for additional search missions, and Ocean Infinity has offered to provide the search missions on a no cure, no pay basis,” he said.

Ab Aziz said that currently the negotiation includes factors such as payment and the time-frame of when it is to be made, as well as whether the fee will be paid after the actual wreckage of the plane is found.

He added that the negotiation will also require that the wreckage be certified to be from MH370 by the plane’s manufacturer, Boeing Co.

“All these details are being looked into as the cost involved is high,” he added.

To an additional question by Tan on whether the official search efforts would be continued, Ab Aziz said Malaysia, Australia and China will consider further search operations if new credible leads arise.

He said a detailed final report of investigation is being prepared and will be issued within one year from July 22, 2016, when the multinational official search effort was suspended.

The search was called off in January this year, after the governments of China, Australia and Malaysia had spent as much as US$200 million on efforts to solve the mystery.

Malaysia alone had spent over RM450 million for an underwater sweep that covered 120,000 sq km in the southern Indian Ocean.

The Beijing-bound aircraft went missing on March 8, 2014, with 239 passengers on board.

The search and rescue mission — which began immediately after — involved some 160 assets as well as experts from 25 countries.

To date, at least six pieces of aircraft debris found along Africa’s east coast have been confirmed as originating from MH370.