Bad weather is proving problematic for the search for MH370, with the latest blow being the damage of a system onboard a search vessel, forcing it to return to port for repairs.
In an operational update, Australia’s Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) says the supporting frame of GO Phoenix’s deep tow system was damaged whilst on deck in rough weather.
It adds that the initial plan was to repair the damage on site, but the significant amount of welding needed resulted in the vessel’s supply of bottled oxygen and acetylene, both required for welding, running out on 3 June. The vessel arrived in Fremantle on 8 June for resupply, and repairs will be conducted en route back to the search area.
Bad weather has slowed down the search process for the missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 aircraft. Fugro Discovery and Fugro Equator both resumed search operations on 6 June following a week of weather avoidance. The latter again had to cease operations on 7 June due to "severe unfavorable weather conditions".
JACC says the vessel continues to use the hiatus to conduct bathymetric survey, mapping additional areas of the seafloor which may be incorporated into the search.
All three vessels have undergone “winterisation” to enable search operations to continue during the rough winter period.
“Over the coming weeks, search operations will be focused in the south to take advantage of the last of the better weather in that area prior to the expected onset of continuous poor weather during winter,” says JACC.
The search area for the missing aircraft has been doubled to 120,000km2. If the aircraft is not found in the enlarged area, the search will be abandoned in the absence of fresh leads. More than 50,000km2 have been searched so far.
MH370 disappeared on 8 March 2014 with 227 passengers and 12 crew on board.