The current search area for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 will not be expanded unless credible leads about the plane's whereabouts are found, the Australian-led Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) announced Wednesday. The original search area of about 23,000 square miles in a remote part of the southern Indian Ocean was doubled in May after no clues were unearthed in the initial operation.
JACC officials stated that over 19,000 square miles of the sea floor has been searched with no concrete clues about the plane's location. “In the absence of credible new information that leads to the identification of a specific location of the aircraft, Governments have agreed that there will be no further expansion of the search area,” JACC wrote in its latest update, referring to the governments of Malaysia, Australia and China.
JACC said that the Search Strategy Working Group is reviewing all evidence that has so far been gathered in relation to the missing MH370 plane. The jetliner had disappeared on March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board while on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
The agency also released photos of GO Phoenix, one of the search vessels, on Wednesday, adding that the ongoing search has been hampered by rough sea conditions.
“Conditions in the search area are currently rough, with average wave heights of over six meters,” JACC stated. “The weather is projected to deteriorate further over the coming days, with expected maximum wave heights reaching up to 12 meters before conditions improve.”
Authorities said that the search will continue through the winter months, but could face pauses depending on the weather conditions.
Late last month, bad weather forced three search vessels -- GO Phoenix, Fugro Equator and Fugro Discovery -- to halt their searches. “Fugro Equator is using the hiatus to conduct bathymetric survey operations, mapping additional areas of the seafloor which may be incorporated into the search,” JACC wrote.
Meanwhile on Tuesday, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) defended its handling of the MH370 search after industry experts criticized its decision of choosing Dutch company Fugro NV for the operation. Experts had claimed that Fugro's search methods were ineffective and that it was using the wrong technology and inexperienced personnel.
The search for the missing Malaysian plane has now become the costliest in the history of the aviation industry.