Here we are again with another search now in progress for the Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 (9M-MRO), a B777-2H6ER that somehow managed to end-up somewhere in the Southern Indian Ocean shortly after midnight on 8 March 2014. That's after departing Kuala Lumpur some 7.5 hours earlier for Beijing.
Swire Seabed of Bergen, Norway have chartered the sophisticated offshore research vessel Seabed Constructor to Ocean Infinity of Texas, USA, which has in turn offered the vessel and its services on a "No Find No Fee" basis in an attempt to locate 9M-MRO's debris believed to be somewhere on the seabed beneath the so-called 20,000 ft altitude Inmarsat 'ping' derived 7th Arc in the south-east SIO. That's a pretty long sentence, so now I'll try and keep them a tad shorter!
The Malaysian government have accepted the deal offered with a princely sum of between US$20 million and $70 million with some timing restraints. Notably, a 25,000km2 area just north of 36°S is to be searched first - i.e. the lower fee, then OI will be free to search anywhere else they wish with the proviso that identifiable debris be found within 90 days. For OI's sake, one would hope the money is in an escrow account controlled by dependable persons.
Swire Seabed is an offshoot company of John Swire & Company, better known for Swire Shipping, Swire Pacific Offshore and of course Cathay Pacific Airways.
Ocean Infinity is a relatively new company with private shareholders, which is involved in seabed exploration and research. They have equipped the Seabed Constructor with a fleet of 8 Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV's) capable of operating to depths of 6,000 metres. Each of these AUVs has a remotely controlled Autonomous / Unmanned Surface Vessel (AUSV) associated with it, which tracks it and via which remote control data can be sent and received by the mother-ship - Seabed Constructor. Side-scan survey data is recorded by each AUV, and at the end of a subsea excursion that data is downloaded when the AUV is safely back onboard the mothership. Maximum endurance of each AUV is up to 50 hours, and the expected coverage of each AUV is about 150km2 per day.
The Seabed Constructor reached the search area from Durban at 0900UTC 21 January 2018 and has already deployed some of the AUVs. As the contract with the Malaysian government was signed after the ship departed Durban, another offshore vessel, the Maersk Mariner is currently transporting 2 Malaysian naval representatives from Fremantle to join the Seabed Constructor - which is a contract requirement. A rather expensive taxi!
The Maersk Mariner should rendezvous with the Seabed Constructor around 1800UTC 23 January 2018.
Meantime, the waiting starts for the recovery of each AUV, the downloading of its recorded data and the onboard review by skilled personnel.