By Angus Whitley and Anisah Shukry (Bloomberg) — The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 is in peril once again as new Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad reins in government spending.
After several extensions of what began as a three-month “no cure, no fee” contract signed by U.S. exploration company Ocean Infinity in January, the government has given extra time until May 29 to wrap up the search for the jet missing since 2014, Transport Minister Anthony Loke Siew Fook told reporters on Wednesday.
Malaysia agreed to pay the firm as much as $70 million if it solves what has become modern aviation’s biggest mystery.
Ocean Infinity’s search vessel, Seabed Constructor, has already scoured 86,000 square kilometers of seabed in the southern Indian Ocean without success, according to the latest weekly report on the operation. That area includes the patch that investigators identified as the aircraft’s most likely resting place before the search was abandoned in 2017.
“We are approaching the end of the current search, and the weather also soon becomes a limiting factor, but we’re currently maximizing our efforts whilst we can,” a representative for Ocean Infinity said in an email.
The contract to find the jet is under review, Mahathir said earlier in the day after his first cabinet meeting.
“We want to know what is the necessity for this, and if we find that it is not necessary, we will not renew,” Mahathir, who returned to power in a shock election triumph this month, told reporters in Putrajaya. “We may terminate it if it’s not useful.”
The Boeing Co. 777 aircraft disappeared on March 8, 2014, on its way to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur with 239 people on board. Investigators tracked MH370’s route using satellite data and believe the plane headed south over the Indian Ocean for about six hours before plummeting into the water.
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