US firm to get up to 70m dollars for finding missing Malaysia Airlines plane
Malaysia has said it will pay US company Ocean Infinity up to 70 million dollars if it can find the wreckage or black boxes of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 within three months.
Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said there is an 85% chance of finding the debris in a new 9,653 square mile (25,000 sq km) area identified by experts.
Last Thursday, the government signed a "no cure, no fee" deal with the Houston, Texas-based company to resume the hunt for the plane which disappeared nearly four years ago.
The official search in the southern Indian Ocean was called off last year.
The plane vanished on March 8 2014 while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board.
Mr Liow told a news conference: "The primary mission by Ocean Infinity is to identify the location of the wreckage and/or both of the flight recorders ... and present a considerable and credible evidence to confirm the exact location of the two main items.
If the mission is successful within three months, payment will be made based on the size of the area searched.
Mr Liow said the government will pay Ocean Infinity 20 million dollars for 1,930 square miles (5,000 sq km) of a successful search, 30 million dollars for 5,790 square miles (15,000 sq km), 50 million dollars for 9,653 square miles (25,000 sq km) and 70 million dollars if the plane or recorders are found beyond the identified area.
Ocean Infinity chief executive Oliver Plunkett said the search vessel Seabed Constuctor, which left the South African port of Durban last week, is expected to reach the southern Indian Ocean by January 17 to begin the hunt.
He said eight autonomous underwater vehicles, which are drones fitted with high-tech cameras, sonars and sensors, will be dispatched to map the seabed at a faster pace.
He said the underwater drones can cover 463 square miles (1,200 sq km) a day and complete the 9,653 square miles (25,000 sq km) within a month.
"We have a realistic prospect of finding it," he said. "While there can be no guarantees of locating the aircraft, we believe our system of multiple autonomous vehicles working simultaneously is well suited to the task at hand."
The official search was extremely difficult because no transmissions were received from the aircraft after its first 38 minutes of flight. Systems designed to automatically transmit the flight's position failed to work after this point, said a final report from Australian Transport Safety Board last January.
"I feel very happy but at the same time very panicky whether it can be found or not. Now it's back to four years ago where we have to wait every day (to find out) whether debris can be found," said Shin Kok Chau, whose wife, Tan Ser Kuin, was a flight attendant on MH370.
Underwater wreck hunter David Mearns said the new search takes into account oceanographic models used to drastically narrow the possible locations of the crash and deploys state-of-the art underwater vehicles which will allow the company to cover far more seabed at a faster pace.
"There are no guarantees in a search of this type. However, notwithstanding that uncertainty, this upcoming search is the best chance yet that the aircraft wreckage will be found," said Mr Mearns, director of Blue Water Recoveries Ltd.