Fugro Discovery, which has been conducting search activities in a remote part of the southern Indian Ocean to locate Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, has pulled out of the search operation. The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), which is leading the search for the missing plane, announced Wednesday that the vessel will depart the search area on Thursday.
Authorities said the search plan will require the other vessels — Fugro Equator and Dong Hai Jiu 101 — to conduct operations until a total area of 46,332 square miles is scoured. So far, more than 42,471 sq. mile area has been searched with no trace of the Boeing 777-200. The plane, which was carrying 239 people, went off radar during its flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014.
Fugro Discovery had joined the search in 2014, and has since conducted a total of 16 swings. One swing consists of a vessel's "journey from port to the search area, the time spent conducting search operations, and the journey back to port — generally around 40 days at sea," ATSB said.
The safety agency also said Wednesday that unfavorable weather conditions have been hampering the ongoing search.
"Weather conditions are forecast to be poor over the coming days, deteriorating further towards the end of the week. Strong winds and rough seas are expected to impact on search operations," ATSB said.
Over the last few weeks, theories have surfaced that say Zaharie Ahmad Shah, captain of the missing plane, “deliberately flew the plane into the Indian Ocean.” However, Malaysian authorities refuted the claims saying that "he (Zaharie) had simulated the flight path, but it is one of thousands of simulations to many parts of the world. We cannot, just based on this, confirm he did it.”
In July, Malaysia, China and Australia announced that they will be suspending the underwater search for Flight MH370 unless “credible new information” emerges.
Over the last few months, several debris pieces have emerged that authorities believe most "likely" belong to the missing jet.