Australia Is Outsourcing The Search For Missing Flight MH370

Almost three months after Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 lost contact with air traffic control, the search goes on. The most likely region for salvage teams to look for the plane in is the southern Indian Ocean off the coast of Western Australia, and while the Australian government has an obligation to continue the hunt, it is turning to contractors to do the searching.

AusTender, the Australian government's tender proposal and management system, has a new document in the Marine Transport category, calling for submissions of interest from companies willing to search the ocean floor for the wreckage of the Malaysian Airlines flight. The tender, on behalf of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, is for contractors that can search areas on the Indian Ocean sea floor, and if required, to map and photograph the aircraft.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) is the Australian agency responsible for the seafloor search. The ATSB is seeking to contract services to:

  • search for and locate MH370 within a defined search area on the seafloor; and
  • if located, map and obtain optical imaging of MH370.

The move to outsource the search procedure is likely a response to the fact that the ATSB does not have the manpower to conduct any ongoing investigation itself; the agency only has around 110 employees of which 60 are responsible for aviation, marine and rail accidents across the country. According to the ATSB, the search zone could be as large as 60,000 square kilometres.

That zone covers the 'seventh handshake' arc, where Inmarsat satellites last detected the airplane. Once the tender closes and a contractor is successfully chosen, the renewed search will begin in August and could take up to a year. The tender means a private company on the search will be contributing its own vessels and search equipment, and may be required to coordinate its search efforts with ships sent from Malaysia or another country. [ATSB]