The Chinese search ship Dong Hai Jiu 101 will return to Shanghai after spending most of 2016 searching for MH370 in the southern reaches of the Indian Ocean.

In a statement, Australian minister for infrastructure and transport Darren Chester thanked Beijing for supplying the vessel, which has assisted the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines 777-200ER since February 2016.

Upon its arrival in the search area, Dong Hai Jiu 101 used deep sonar to conduct several broad sweeps. Subsequently, it used a remotely operated vehicle to inspect points of interest.

“This final detailed inspection, which commenced in late October from Fremantle, has been invaluable undertaking 33 dives in the 120,000km² search areas,” Mr Chester said.

The vessel’s departure leaves just one ship, the Fugro Equator, hunting for the lost aircraft. It is expected that the search will be concluded in early 2017.

For most of the search, three to four vessels have been employed - although extreme weather in the southern Indian Ocean has impeded search efforts. In the days and weeks after the aircraft's disappearance on 8 March 2014, dozens of ships and aircraft were employed in search efforts.

In July 2016, the three primary countries in the search – Malaysia, China, and Australia – agreed that should the aircraft not be located in the 120,000km² search zone, the search would be concluded in the absence of credible new evidence.

MH370 disappeared while operating the Kuala Lumpur-Beijing flight, with all 239 people aboard the aircraft lost.

Apart from scattered debris washed up on the east coast of Africa, no physical trace of the aircraft has been located.

Source: Cirium Dashboard