Reuters KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) — Malaysia signed a deal on Wednesday to pay a U.S. seabed exploration firm up to $70 million if it finds the missing Malaysia Airlines aircraft MH370 within 90 days of embarking on a new search in the Southern Indian ocean.
The disappearance of the aircraft en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in March 2014 with 239 people aboard ranks among the world’s greatest aviation mysteries.
Australia, China and Malaysia ended a fruitless A$200 million ($157 million) search of a 120,000-square-kilometer area in January last year, despite investigators urging the search be extended to a 25,000-square-kilometer area further to the north.
Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said a Houston-based private firm, Ocean Infinity, would search for MH370 in that 25,000-square-kilometer priority area on a “no-cure, no-fee” basis, meaning it will only get paid if it finds the plane.
“As we speak, the vessel, Seabed Constructor, is on her way to the search area, taking advantage of favorable weather conditions in the South Indian ocean,” Liow told a news conference.
The search will begin on Jan. 17, said Ocean Infinity Chief Executive Oliver Plunkett.
Ocean Infinity will be paid $20 million if the plane is found within 5,000 square kilometers, $30 million if it is found within 10,000 square kilometers and $50 million if it is found within an area of 25,000 square kilometers. Beyond that area, Ocean Infinity will receive $70 million, Liow said.
Its priority is to locate the wreckage or the flight and cockpit recorders, and present credible evidence to confirm their location within 90 days, Liow added.
“They cannot take forever.”