Two Malaysian navy officers aboard the search ship, Azmi Rosedee and Adbul Halim Ahmad Nordin, told the New Straits Times they were “doing their utmost”, even as the search was slowed by bad weather and tricky underwater terrain in the Indian Ocean.
The renewed search for MH370 began in January this year after the US-based company Ocean Infinity was hired by the Malaysian government. A previous three-year search coordinated by Australia was called off in 2017 after it failed to find the plane.
After 43 days of searching Ocean Infinity’s ship, Seabed Constructor, is yet to find anything.
“We have gone through a number of rough days,” Rosedee and Nordin said. “Operations continue even when the sea is rough … but it makes it difficult for us to deploy and recover the AUVs [search vehicles]. This slows us down.
“Aside from that, the seabed of the search areas is hilly and uneven. This also disrupts the AUV’s capability to thoroughly sweep the areas”.
In February the Australian Broadcasting Corporation revealed that the presence of Malaysian military on board Seabed Constructor had sparked a “power struggle”, with concerns the Malaysian government wanted stricter oversight and military control over the search.
On Thursday the Malaysian navy chief, Admiral Tan Sri Ahmad Kamarulzaman Ahmad Badaruddin, defended the presence of the naval officers, Rosedee and Nordin.
“Since the cost of this search will be borne by the government, it is necessary to have our representatives on board to observe the operation,” he said.
He also told the New Straits Times the two officers would be “his eyes and ears” and would ensure that the search was carried out smoothly.
Before the search began, Malaysian authorities identified a 25,000 sq km priority area in the Indian Ocean as the “most likely” resting place of the missing plane. This area was first suggested by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, after the end of their three-year search, as the next place to look.
As of Thursday, which marked the four-year anniversary of the plane’s disappearance, Seabed Constructor had searched 16,000 sq km of the 25,000 sq km priority area.
Officials have estimated there is an 85% chance of finding the plane within the priority area.
If the search is unsuccessful Ocean Infinity will expand the area to 48,000 sq km. Its contract with the Malaysian government allows for 90 days to locate the plane, on a “no find, no fee” basis.
The search period also allows for time spent refuelling in the Australian port of Fremantle, meaning the search is expected to end by mid-June.