Kuala Lumpur, April 14 :
The Australian Defence Vessel (ADV) Ocean Shield will deploy a mini-sub Monday to join in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, the country’s Joint Agency Coordination Centre confirmed.
“Ocean Shield will cease searching with the towed pinger locator later today (Monday) and deploy the autonomous underwater vehicle Bluefin-21 as soon as possible,” the Malaysian Star quoted JACC head Angus Houston as saying.
Houston stressed on the fact that its has been 38 days the jet went missing since March 8 and the blackbox batteries which have a shelf life of only 30 days, might have died down already.
“We haven’t had a single detection in six days, so I guess it’s time to go underwater,” Houston said.
The US-made Bluefin-21, a 4.93 metre (16.2 feet) long sonar device will now scour the seabed on a 24-hour cycle covering a search area of 40 sq km, the report said.
The Bluefin-21, weighing 750 kg, can operate at a depth of up to 4,500 metres.
An oil slick was also spotted Monday, with around two litres of fuel already collected and has been sent for testing.
“I stress the source of the oil is yet to be determined but the oil slick is approximately 5,500 m downwind from the vicinity of the detections picked up by the towed pinger locator on Ocean Shield,” Houston said.
Up to 12 aircraft and 15 ships have been deployed in Monday’s search.
The ADV Ocean Shield still continues at the northern end of the defined search area and Chinese ship Haixun 01 and British ship HMS Echo at the southern end.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority narrowed down the overall search area Saturday to 41,393 sq km located about 2,331 km northwest of Perth from Friday’s search area of 46,713 sq km.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 vanished mysteriously about an hour after taking off for Beijing from Kuala Lumpur shortly after midnight March 8.
The Boeing 777-200ER was scheduled to land in Beijing the same day. The 227 passengers on board included five Indians, 154 Chinese and 38 Malaysians.