MH370 last ship
A woman leaves a message of support and hope for the passengers of the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 in central Kuala Lumpur, March 16, 2014. Reuters/Damir Sagolj

The last ship, still looking for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane MH370, left an Australian port Monday night for what may be its final search. If the missing flight is not found in the next few weeks, the search will be suspended by late January or early February.

The Dutch-owned search vessel MV Fugro Equator left Fremantle to conduct a sweep of a 3,000-kilometer (1,864-miles) search area southwest of Perth. The Fugro Equator will be the sole ship reexamining certain portions of the over 46,000 square mile search area in hopes of finding the missing flight, which crashed into the South Indian Ocean in 2014.

The Chinese vessel, Dong Hai Jiu 101, is heading back to Shanghai after completing its mission. Australian Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester thanked China for its help in the search for MH370.

“It has been an heroic undertaking but we have to prepare ourselves for the prospect that we may not find MH370 in the coming weeks, although we remain hopeful,” Chester told the West Australian newspaper.

Meanwhile, relatives of the passengers of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight went to Madagascar early December to lobby for an extension in the search for the plane. Before their departure, they added that if needed, they would take the search into their own hands.

Last week, one of the relatives found a possible piece of wreckage from the missing plane on a beach in Madagascar. Several pieces of debris have washed up on the east African coast over the last few months.

The Boeing 777-200 went missing on March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board while on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. A multimillion-dollar search for the missing plane has not yielded any concrete clues about the plane’s location. If no credible clues are found in the underwater search, expected to be completed by early 2017, the search will be suspended.