No trace of Flight MH370 has been found since it vanished on a
scheduled service from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, despite
the most intensive search in commercial aviation history.
With the air and surface search now halted, a new search phase
costing around A$60 million ($55 million) will begin after existing
visual and sonar search data is analyzed and a contractor is found
to lease the sophisticated equipment needed, officials said after
meeting in Canberra.
Financial responsibility is a major focus of the talks and
Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss seemed to open the
door to manufacturers including Boeing, which produced the 777-200ER
jet, and engine maker Rolls Royce, to contribute financially.
"They also have a vested interest in what happened on MH370 so they
can be confident about the quality of their product, or take
remedial action if there was some part of the aircraft that
contributed to this accident," he told reporters.
"So, I think we will be looking for increasing involvement from the
manufacturers, and their host countries."
Boeing said it was providing technical expertise to the
"Boeing provides experts who assist on site as well as many more
within the company who, because of the detailed knowledge of the
airplane, its performance and behavior, are called upon to
contribute," the company said in a statement e-mailed to Reuters.
Experts have narrowed the search area where the plane is presumed to
have crashed to a large arc of the Indian Ocean about 1,600 km
(1,000 miles) northwest of the west Australian city of Perth.
Last week, Malaysia released its most comprehensive account yet of
what happened to Flight MH370, detailing the route the plane
probably took as it veered off course and the confusion that
The officials have said the focus will be on 60,000 sq km (24,000 sq
mile) of seabed in the Indian Ocean that could take a year to
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U.S. President Barack Obama had publicly promised to commit more
assets, but government sources say the United States is keen to
begin passing on the costs of providing the expensive sonar
equipment the officials say they are trying to source.
The United States said over the weekend that it would only
contribute its sophisticated Bluefin-21 underwater drone for one
more month, placing pressure on Australia, China and Malaysia to
find funding for the next phase of the search. A majority of the 239
people on board were Chinese nationals.
"At the request of the Australian Government, the U.S. Navy will
continue supporting the MH370 sub-surface search effort with the
Bluefin-21 side scan sonar for approximately 4 more weeks," U.S.
Navy Commander William Marks of the 7th Fleet said.
For now the search is on hold as the Ocean Shield, an Australian
naval vessel carrying the drone, resupplies and conducts maintenance
at a military base in Western Australia.
The officials will meet again in Canberra on Wednesday, they said,
where they will begin thrashing out the details of how to proceed
and who precisely will shoulder the costs of doing so. ($1 = 1.0795
(Additional reporting by Siva Govindasamy; Editing by Lincoln Feast
and Raju Gopalakrishnan)
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