Australian contracted survey vessel Fugro Equator has joined in the search for Malaysia Airlines’ missing Boeing 777.
The vessel joins Chinese navy ship Zhu Kezhen in carrying out a bathymetric survey of the search area, under the direction of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB). This is a crucial step ahead of the deep-water search for MH370, scheduled to commence in August.
The Chinese vessel suffered a defect to its multibeam echo-sounder in May, and had necessary repairs done at the port of Fremantle. The vessel, which has so far surveyed 4,088 square kilometres of the ocean floor, will resume operations in the search area shortly, says the Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC).
The agency is expecting the vessels to take three months to complete the bathymetric survey of the 60,000km2 search area. The vessels will regularly send survey data to the ATSB and Geoscience Australia, which will use it to progressively build a map of the search area.
The search area will be confirmed before the end of June.
“It is already clear from the provisional results of that analysis that the search zone will move, but still be on the seventh arc [where the aircraft last communicated with the satellite],” says JACC.
Over 100 days have passed since the disappearance of MH370 on 8 March. Search efforts has so far been focused on the satellite data from Immarsat, which determined that the aircraft is likely to be in the Southern Indian Ocean. The “seventh arc” is the area of last satellite communications from the 777. This arc reaches from 20°S to 39°S.
Inmarsat has reportedly said that the search for MH370 has yet to reach an area it believes is the jet's most likely crash site.