Australian officials have ruled out an area in the southern Indian Ocean, where acoustic signals believed to be from an aircraft had been detected, as the final resting place of missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.
The Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) yesterday said the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) made the conclusion based on the outcome of an underwater search that ended on Wednesday.
Autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) Bluefin-21, JACC said, had scoured more than 850 square kilometres of ocean floor in the search zone and found no sign of aircraft debris since it was deployed on April 15.
"Yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon, Bluefin-21 completed its last mission, having searched the remaining areas in the vicinity where acoustic signals had been detected early last month by a Towed Pinger Locator (TPL) deployed from defence vessel Ocean Shield.
"The data from the mission has been analysed. JACC can advise that no sign of aircraft debris has been found by the AUV since it joined the search effort.
"ATSB has advised that the search in the vicinity can be considered complete and, in its professional judgment, the area can be ruled out as the final resting place of MH370."
MH370’s communication logs from British satellite operator AFP pic
Ocean Shield has left the search zone for the Royal Australian Navy's Fleet Base West in west Australia.
JACC did not elaborate if the acoustic signals detected had come from MH370's black box, as has been disputed by several international media outlets.
Hours before the statement was issued, CNN published a report, quoting United States Navy deputy director of ocean engineering Michael Dean as saying: "Our best theory at this point is that (the pings were) likely sounds produced by the ship... or the TPL's electronics."
US Navy official Chris Johnson told Bloomberg that the comments were "speculative and premature".
In Beijing, Acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein yesterday said the ProSaS Deep Towed synthetic sonar and Remora Remotely Operated Vehicle would be deployed in the search area.
"We will deploy these as we enter the next phase of the deep-sea search operation."
Hishammuddin said the systems would be funded by Petronas and DEFTEC. (Source: New Straits Times Press)