Australia’s Joint Agency Coordination Centre [JACC] confirmed Saturday that Zhu Kezhen, a Chinese search vessel, was headed back to port after suffering a defect during search operations for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, marking yet another major setback in the search.
“Zhu Kezhen suffered a defect to its multi-beam echo sounder and is coming into port to conduct the necessary repairs,” the centre said in a statement posted on its website. The incident comes days after the Australian Transportation Safety Board [ATSB] discounted the current search area, saying that it was not the final resting place of MH370, contrary to earlier beliefs.
“The Australian Transportation Safety Board has advised that the search in the vicinity of the acoustic detections can now be considered complete and in its professional judgement, the area can now be discounted as the final resting place of MH370,” said a JACC statement on Thursday.
The Chinese vessel had just began the new phase in the search for MH370 by starting a bathymetric survey, or mapping of the sea floor, leading to an extensive underwater search in the Indian Ocean scheduled to begin in August lasting 12 months. “The underwater search will aim to locate the aircraft and any evidence [such as aircraft debris and flight recorders] to assist with the Malaysian investigation of the disappearance of MH370,” the statement added.
The autonomous underwater vehicle BlueFin-21 completed its inspection of more than 850 square kilometres of ocean floor on Wednesday, where acoustic detections [pings] had been detected between April 5 and 8 off the western coast of Australia. The signals were the same frequency as data recorders installed on board the missing Boeing 777-200ER used to operate MH370 on the night it went missing.
Search authorities a month prior had downplayed reports which stated the possible discovery of debris resembling a commercial airliner in the Bay of Bengal. “The joint international team is satisfied that the final resting place of the missing aircraft is in the southerly portion of the search arc,” JAAC said in an email to Examiner.com on April 29 in response to a report from geophysical survey company GeoResonance that MH370 may be located in the largest bay in the world.
Contrary to reports, the Bay of Bengal, GeoResonance said, “has not been searched by the Bangladesh Navy and will not be as the JACC are certain MH370 is in the Southern Indian Ocean,” the company said in an email to Examiner.com on May 21.
Flight MH370 disappeared from radar screens in the early morning hours of March 8 with 227 passengers and 12 crew aboard a flight scheduled between the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur and Beijing—the Chinese capital.