Senior Ministers from Australia, Malaysia and the People’s Republic of China met today to discuss progress in the search for MH370. Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister, the Honourable Warren Truss MP, chaired the meeting with the Malaysian Minister of Transport, Mr. Liow Tiong Lai and the Chinese Vice Minister of Transport, Mr He Jianzhong.
Ministers acknowledged and expressed their sincere appreciation to the nations that have provided assets and assistance for the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 over the past five months and remain cautiously optimistic that the missing aircraft will be found.
Ministers reiterated that the passengers and families of MH370 have not left their thoughts, and while they cannot begin to comprehend the suffering of the next of kin, reiterated their commitment to do all they could to assist them to find closure and understand the mystery of MH370.
Ministers acknowledged that Australia had announced the successful tenderer of deep-sea search on 6 August, and reaffirmed that deep-sea search is expected to commence in September.
The meeting was provided with presentations on:
- how the bathymetry survey data is being analysed and outcomes to date;
- the status of planning for the deep-sea search aspects including utilisation of the range of scanning and remote overwater vehicles;
- ongoing analysis and refinements to the priority search area; and
- progress with the investigation.
Ministers recognised the valuable ongoing contribution provided by Malaysian and Chinese expert liaison officers to the day-to-day work of the Joint Agency Coordination Centre, as well as working together with the Australian Transport Safety Bureau and Geoscience Australia in relation to the complex bathymetry task and to the upcoming deep-sea search.
Ministers were briefed on the status of the bathymetry work that commenced in May using two vessels—the Zhu Kezhen provided by China and the Fugro Equator which is a vessel contracted by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB). Malaysia remains committed to support the Australian Government in the bathymetry work.
To date over 87,000 square kilometres of the sea floor in the 1.1 million square kilometres, wide search area, have been surveyed. The analysis of this bathymetric data has already expanded our knowledge of the area, indicating depths up to 1500 metres deeper than previously known, and the identification of two underwater volcanos and other geographic features that will greatly assist in navigating the sea floor.
Analysis of the bathymetric data is currently being used to identify targets for the deep-sea search. Ministers were provided with the latest planning information for the deep-sea search. The ATSB will lead the search utilising Fugro Discovery, Fugro Equator and the Malaysian contracted vessel GO Phoenix.
These vessels, using towed vehicles equipped with side scan sonar, synthetic aperture sonar, multi-beam echo sounders and video cameras will be deployed to locate and identify MH370.
Refinements to the Priority Search Area
Ministers again recognised that the search remains a highly complex operation. The effort to find evidence of the missing aircraft near the identified long but narrow arc in the southern Indian Ocean has already become the biggest search operations in history, with the surface search covering over 4.5 million square kilometres.
Ministers acknowledged the outstanding work of the experts on the satellite working group, including Inmarsat, the US National Transportation Safety Board, the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch, Boeing, Malaysia’s Department of Civil Aviation, Thales and Australia’s Defence Science and Technology Organisation, that have been critical to the identification and ongoing refinement of the search area, by the ATSB.
The meeting received detailed briefing on the ongoing refinement of the search area. The priority area will continue to be focused on the seventh arc in the southern Indian Ocean.
Ministers were updated on the status of the investigation and noted that the Investigation Team has completed Stage 1 of the investigation which involved the collection and gathering of all factual information and records, and interviews with all relevant individuals and agencies. Currently the Investigation Team is progressing into Stage 2 which includes analysis of all the data and information received.
The Ministers noted the challenges and difficulties faced by the Investigation Team, given the lack of physical evidence, particularly the aircraft and flight recorder.
Ministers reiterated the positive and productive nature of the ongoing tripartite collaboration and joint communications and will continue to maintain this strong collaborative approach in the future. Ministers also emphasized that the families of the passengers and crew and the general public will continue to be updated on the development and outcome of the search operations.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Ministers reconfirmed their commitment to finding MH370.