CANBERRA: The Malaysian and Australian Transport Ministers on Monday thanked the crew of the Fugro Equator – the vessel that has been searching for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 airplane for the past three years, China's Xinhua news agency reported.
Following the suspension of the deep-sea ocean search for the aircraft last week, Malaysia's Datuk Seri Liow Tong Lai and Liow and Australia's Darren Chester met with the vessel's crew in Western Australia.
Chester said although the aircraft was not found within the 120,000 sq km search zone, it was "very important" to thank the crew for their tireless efforts over the past three years.
"This has been an extraordinary search effort in some of the most inhospitable seas on Earth," Chester told the press on Monday.
He said it was easy to think of the search vessel as just scientific equipment and not as manpower.
He said crewmembers often searched the Southern Indian Ocean continuously for weeks at a time, often in treacherous conditions.
"As I've said before, the search for MH370 has been at the cutting edge of technology and scientific expertise, but also a heroic human endeavour," Chester said.
"Having not found the aircraft does not indicate failure. It indicates that the aircraft is not in that 120,000 sq km search area."
Chester said while the ocean search had been suspended, work was ongoing in assessing satellite photos and debris which may have washed up on shore.
"If any more debris comes forward, we will work with our Malaysian counterparts in assessing those of interest.
"Work is also going on in terms of further analysis of satellite imagery," Chester said.
Meanwhile, Liow said while it was upsetting that the missing Boeing 777 aircraft was not in the search zone, the "commitment, professionalism and dedication" shown by the crew was admirable.
He said the Malaysian Government was extremely thankful for their hard work, as well as the efforts of both the Chinese and Australian governments in searching for the plane.
"On behalf of Malaysia, I would like to once again say thank you to the crewmembers, the Australian government and the Chinese government for their support in the search for MH370," Liow told the press.
"We are very sad that we couldn't locate the aircraft. The crew told us the difficulty they faced in the deep sea waters.
"Sometimes they faced four straight days of waves, or strong winds of up to 140kmh. They had to be there to face these challenges," he said.
Last week, a statement from the Chinese, Malaysian and Australian governments said the search would be suspended indefinitely as it had "not been able to locate the aircraft", however it also said if "credible new evidence" was found which could point to the location of the airplane, the search could resume.
MH370 was a scheduled passenger flight bound for Beijing from Kuala Lumpur.
It disappeared on March 8, 2014 with 239 passengers and crew on board. – Bernama