KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has “hardly spent anything” on the search mission for the missing MH370 airliner, said Acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein.
He said this was because other countries such as Australia, China and the United States had extensively contributed to the search mission for the aircraft – touted as the largest in aviation history.
“As far as Malaysia is concerned, the cost is for just deploying our military assets.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has been with us in the earlier phase of the search,” Hishammuddin told a press conference yesterday.
He said it has been 69 days since MH370 went missing and the search would enter a transition phase, prioritising deep-sea search beginning on Monday.
The priorities during this phase include re-analysing all data to verify a more accurate search area which will be conducted by a group of experts together with Inmarsat, to conduct a bathymetric survey involving an extensive mapping of the seabed, and to conduct the search operation by identifying and deploying the relevant towed and autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV) required for the terrain.
Hishammuddin said Australia’s commitment of up to US$89.9mil (RM272.3mil) towards the search for the missing plane over two years was only a ceiling amount.
“In this new phase, we have not estimated our cost and to be fair to Australia, we should share it but the actual amount has not been determined because we need to identify the exact location and the assets needed to be deployed,” he added.
Asked if the Government will provide financial aid to Malaysia Airlines, which posted a net loss of RM443mil in the first quarter of 2014, Hishammuddin said “no”.
On asset deployment, Hishammuddin said the tripartite meeting of Malaysia, China and Australia on the specific assets needed for the search had agreed that procurement arrangements for the use of commercial contractors would be undertaken by Australia in consultation with Malaysia.
“Besides the commercial assets, Malaysia and China are also assigning specific assets for operations in this new phase,” he said.
He said Malaysia had secured one towed sonar and AUV from Petronas.
“We intend to have them in the water as soon as ocean floor mapping survey is completed. China estimates that to be 36 days from now,” he told reporters on the sideline.
The committee is also in talks with SapuraKencana for a multibeam echosounder to assist in bathymetric mapping of the ocean floor of the search area, as well as Boustead and Deftech for other assets.
“It has been agreed that Malaysia and Australia will share the cost to procure them.”
The committee will be represented by First Admiral Hanafiah Hassan and Colonel Hassan Loman, in a special team to Canberra consisting of senior officers from the four ministerial sub-committees in the MH370 search.