MH370: Government in "detailed discussions" with Malaysian firms over deployment of assets in new search phase

The Star Online: 02 May 2014

KUALA LUMPUR: The Goverment is in "detailed discussions" with Malaysian companies such as SapuraKencana Petroleum, Petronas and DefTech regarding the deployment of specialised assets in the new deepwater search phase for MH370, said acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein.

These assets include autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), side-scan sonar and remotely operated vehicles (ROV).

Speaking at a press conference here on Friday, he said it was important for all Malaysian entities involved in the search effort to be on the same page.

“We are resolute in our commitment to find MH370, and will continue to intensify search efforts,” he told reporters at Royale Chulan here.

Hishammuddin stressed that the Malaysian Government had nothing to hide, citing the recent release of a preliminary report on the MH370 incident.

“We are consistent with our stand that in the interest of openness and transparency, all information which does not jeopardise the investigation or the search operation should and will be made public,” he added. On reports of an Australian exploration firm, GeoResonance, claiming to have found the MH370 wreckage in the Bay of Bengal, Hishammuddin said: “We agree with Joint Agency Coordination Centre chief Angus Houston that the claim is "highly unlikely.”

Houston and French Aviation Accident Investigation Bureau president Jean-Paul Troadec had met the investigation team in a meeting in Kuala Lumpur on Friday to discuss the new phase of the search operation.

Asked why a SapuraKencana vessel might be deployed to verify the said claim, Hishammuddin said that he has yet to decide on the deployment.

“We have to be responsible in this decision, as it’s the exact vessel we are going to deploy in the new phase of search. Any detour will cost 14 days exactly,” he added. Though SapuraKencana is ready to deploy the vessel, Hishammuddin will await feedback from parties such as Bangladesh and other countries who have deployed assets in that area before further discussions with the Malaysian company. “We will proceed based on corroborated and verified information. If the vessel is deployed and the lead turns out to be negative, can you imagine what the families will go through?" he added.

On March 8, Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 disappeared with 227 passengers and 12 crew on board after diverting from its path to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur.

It has now been 56 days since it went missing, with search operations lasting over seven weeks thus far.

Hishammuddin will head to Canberra on Sunday for a trilateral discussion with the Chinese and Australian authorities.

Also attending will be the heads of three ministerial committees, namely next-of-kin committee head Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Datuk Hamzah Zainuddin; technical committee head Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Abdul Aziz Kaprawi, and deployment of assets committee head Deputy Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Bakri.

They will be joined by Civil Aviation Department director-general Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman and Malaysian Airlines Group chief executive officer Ahmad Jauhari Yahya.

The meeting will be chaired by Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss, who is also Infrastructure Minister.

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