The government signed a contract with Ocean Infinity on Wednesday, but said the company would only be paid if it locates the aircraft or flight recorders.
The search will begin on 17 January, said Ocean Infinity chief executive Oliver Plunkett, who attended the signing event.
The Beijing-bound MH370 disappeared from the radar on March 8, 2014, some 40 minutes after taking off from Kuala Lumpur, reportedly after someone deliberately turned off its communication system and changed the route, according to official investigation. This new 90 day long hunt, will start in January when a high-tech vessel leased by the seabed exploration firm, "Ocean Infinity", reaches a new search zone in the southern Indian Ocean.
Director of Blue Water Recoveries Ltd, underwater wreck hunter David Mearns termed the United States firm's plan as the "best chance yet" to find debris from the missing flight.More news: Tax law implementation to cost IRS almost $500 million
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"I would like to thank Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, and all ministries and agencies involved in the new search for MH370, and for the last four years". Australia, China and Malaysia ended a fruitless A$200mn ($157mn) search of an area of 120,000 sq km in January past year, despite investigators urging the search be extended to a 25,000-square-km area further to the north. The government is pledging $20 million if the aircraft or both flight recorders are found within 5,000 square kilometers of the primary search area, with the reward topping off at $70 million if it's found in a search area exceeding 25,000 square kilometers. The vessel will have 65 crew, including two government representatives drawn from the Malaysian navy.
The eight AUVs are "free flying", which means they can travel untethered and can dive to depths of 6,000 meters (19,685 feet), Ocean Infinity said. Beyond that area, Ocean Infinity will receive $70 million, Liow said. "We thank the government of Malaysia for its efforts in evaluating offers and concluding this agreement", they said in a statement to the press today.
Investigators believe MH370 headed south over the Indian Ocean for about six hours before plummeting into the water.
Three confirmed fragments of MH370 have been found on the western shores of the Indian Ocean, The Star said. There have been competing theories that the aircraft suffered mechanical failure or was intentionally flown off course.