The search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, also known as MH370, appears to have stopped temporarily. A media representative for the Australian government's Joint Agency Coordination Center confirmed to International Business Times on Sunday that both vessels being used to scan the Indian Ocean floor for evidence of the vanished plane were en route to Fremantle, Australia, leaving no ships to work on finding MH370.
Shortly after the Boeing 777 and its 239 passengers disappeared March 8, 2014, Australia volunteered to lead the attempt to locate and recover debris from the presumably crashed plane. Dutch company Fugro became involved in June, and the Australian Transportation and Safety Bureau awarded it a further contract worth roughly $50 million in August.
A Fugro vessel named Discovery has been conducting underwater search operations since October 2014, and in January 2015, the Equator joined it. A third ship was briefly used but taken out of commission by May, according to the website. The two vessels -- the Discovery and Equator -- have swept more than 70,000 of the 120,000 square kilometers in the search area, according to a recent operational search update. The weather has been complicating their efforts recently, but progress seems to have halted last week.
The Equator left the search area to go back to the port city of Fremantle for a regularly scheduled resupply mission Nov. 3, according to the update. It was set to arrive Monday, and the Discovery was set to launch its towfish sonar system in its absence.
But the night of Nov. 4, a crew member on the Discovery came down with suspected appendicitis. The crew member received medical treatment, though the need for additional care sent the Discovery also sailing back toward Fremantle. The journey was expected to take about six days. "As we have continued to emphasize, the safety and well-being of the crew is of the highest priority," the agency wrote.
When an IBT reporter emailed the agency to ask whether this meant there were no vessels currently sweeping the floor for MH370, a representative responded, "Yes, that is correct."
A search of Voyager's Port Management System showed that both ships arrived in Fremantle Sunday and departed Monday. MarineTraffic.com estimated it would take about five days for the Equator to reach the survey site again, while the Discovery could arrive in four days. In both cases, more than a week will have elapsed in the MH370 search.
— Mike Chillit (@MikeChillit) November 9, 2015
To date, the only confirmed MH370 debris found was a flaperon wing part discovered on Réunion Island near Madagascar in late July.