Malaysia will deploy more assets for the deep-sea search in the southern Indian Ocean to aid the Australia-led efforts in locating Flight MH370 went missing nearly four months ago.

Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said the Royal Malaysian Navy vessel, KD Mutiara, which has the capability of the multi-beam echo sounder, would join the search efforts to assist in the current bathymetric survey process.

“The ship will set sail on August 4,” he told reporters after launching the MH370 Photo Exhibition.

The Beijing-bound Malaysia Airlines (MAS) Boeing 777-200 with 239 people, including five Indians, on board went missing on March 8, an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

After the plane went missing, a massive multinational search was launched, first in the South China Sea and later extended to the Melaka Straits and Andaman Sea, before the search teams shifted their attention to the waters off western Australia in the southern Indian Ocean, half way to Antarctica.

On June 26, Australia had announced that the new search area for MH370 would be shifted further south in the southern Indian Ocean, an endeavour that is expected to be concluded in about a year.

The new location, however, would still be in the area where the Beijing-bound Boeing 777-200 plane with 239 people onboard last communicated with the Inmarsat satellite before it went missing.

The bathymetric or mapping of the sea floor survey is expected to complete in three months, followed by the comprehensive deep-sea search in August.

On commercial assets, the Defence Minister said that Petronas, together with DEFTECH and Phoenix International, would immediately deploy a Prosas Side Scan Sonar (Towed Synthetic Aperture Sonar), which would be mounted on a mother vessel.

He said another company, Boustead Heavy Industries, together with iXBlue Australia, would also be deploying a deep-towed side scan sonar with a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) mounted on the mother vessel called John Lethbridge, Bernama news agency reported.

The operational requirements for these assets would be coordinated with the Australian authorities, he added.

Asked on the cost for the coming search operation, he said the newly-announced assets deployment would be borne by the commercial companies.

He said there could be a possibility that Malaysia, China and Australia would share and bear the cost of the search operation.

Malaysian government and Malaysia Airlines have been heavily criticised domestically and abroad for their handling of the disaster, with critics pointing to the government’s slow response and lack of coordination in the search and rescue operations.

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