The Deputy Prime Minister, Warren Truss, has announced that the Australian co-ordinated search for Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 in the southern Indian Ocean has failed to find the plane.
Speaking in the House of Representatives, Truss said the next phase of the search would begin in August and focus on an area that could be as big as 800 kilometres in length by 70 kilometres wide. The search would take approximately 12 months.
Truss said: “We remain as a nation committed to the search… We’re still very confident that the resting place of the aircraft is in the southern ocean and along the 7th ping line.”
Truss said there will be an extensive review of the search data, which will also be peer reviewed.
The ALP’s Tony Burke offered condolences to the families of those missing.
The plane has been missing since March 8.
- Listen to Truss (7m)
Hansard transcript of statement by Deputy PM Warren Truss to the House of Representatives.
Mr TRUSS (Wide Bay—Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development) (16:44): by leave—Honourable members will be aware that Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 with 239 people on board disappeared on 8 March on a flight en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Australia has led the biggest search operation in history because it is believed that this aircraft has come to grief in Australia’s search and rescue zone, but as yet there has been no evidence of the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 arising from that search.
Yesterday afternoon Bluefin-21 completed its last mission searching in the remaining areas in the vicinity of the acoustic signals that were detected in early April by the towed pinger locator deployed from ADV Ocean Shield. This submersible autonomous vehicle was contracted by the US Navy and operated by their personnel. The data collected on yesterday’s mission has been analysed and, as a result, the Joint Agency Coordinating Centre can advise that no signs of aircraft debris have been found by the autonomous underwater vehicle since it has joined the search effort. Since Bluefin-21 has been involved in the search it has scoured over 850 square kilometres of the ocean floor looking for signs of the aircraft. The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has now advised that the search in the vicinity of the acoustic detections can be considered complete and in its professional judgement the area can now be discounted as the final resting place for MH370. Ocean Shield departed the area last night and will be arriving in Fleet Base West on Saturday.
As I mentioned earlier this month, the search for MH370 continues, but now it has to move into a different phase. There is an extensive review being undertaken of the data and that review will also be peer-reviewed so we can be absolutely certain that any information of importance is identified and then able to be followed through. We are continuing to study the transmissions which led to the detailed research in the area where the latest activities have occurred. We concentrated the search in that area because pings, the information received, was the best information available at the time. That is all you can do in circumstances like this—follow the very best leads.
The next part of the exercise also involves reviewing all existing information and analysis to define the search zone up to 60,000 square kilometres along the arc in the Southern Indian Ocean where the aircraft is believed to have travelled in its last hours. We are also conducting oceanographic surveys to map the seafloor in the defined search area, and acquiring the specialist services required for a comprehensive research of the seafloor in that area. We are still very confident that the resting place of the aircraft is in the Southern Ocean and along the 7th ping line. The expert satellite working group will continue to review the evidence and, on the basis of that advice, help inform the next stage of the search.
A Chinese survey vessel, the Zhu Kezhen, has already begun conducting this oceanographic survey, mapping the ocean floor, because the area is largely unmapped. In addition to that, it is being supported by other Chinese vessels and Malaysian vessels which are helping to transport the data on the survey vessel to shore so that it can be effectively examined.
We will also be moving to call tenders for suitable equipment to undertake this next stage of the search and that will be undertaken by AusTender, the Australian government tendering system. It is anticipated that the next stage of the search, the component search, will begin in August and take up to 12 months. Hopefully, there will be a breakthrough earlier and so it will not take that amount of time. But unfortunately, this is a painstaking effort in a very large ocean. The area to be searched during the next stage could be as big as 800 kilometres in length by 70 kilometres wide. Hopefully, the study will define that area a little more closely but in reality a very large area is potentially going to require searching.
We remain as a nation committed to the search. We remain determined to do everything we possibly can to find this aircraft. It is our responsibility to the families of those who are involved but also to assure the safety of the flying public into the future. Australia will be working with other countries to make sure we have the best available resources so that everything that can possibly be done to locate this aircraft will be done. I thank the House.
Mr BURKE (Watson—Manager of Opposition Business) (16:50): by leave—I thank the Deputy Prime Minister for advising the House. The hopes of many have been dashed. Once again we offer our condolences and words of comfort to the families and friends of passengers on MH370 who still wait more news. Our thoughts and the thoughts of all Australians are with you.