Malaysia Looks Set to Restart MH370 Search – UPDATED

Many thanks to reader @David who provided the link to the following statement issued today, October 19, 2017, by Australia’s Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Darren Chester:

I acknowledge the announcement that the Malaysian Government is entering into an agreement with Ocean Infinity, to search for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

The Malaysian Government has accepted an offer from Ocean Infinity to search for the missing plane, entering into a ‘no find no fee’ arrangement.

Malaysia’s decision to proceed with the search shows the commitment to find MH370.

While I am hopeful of a successful search, I’m conscious of not raising hopes for the loved ones of those on board.

Ocean Infinity will focus on searching the seafloor in an area that has previously been identified by experts as the next most likely location to find MH370.
Australia, at Malaysia’s request, will provide technical assistance to the Malaysian Government and Ocean Infinity.

No new information has been discovered to determine the specific location of the aircraft, however data collected during the previous search will be provided.

As always our thoughts are with the families and friends. I hope that this new search will bring answers, both for the next of kin and for the rest of the world.

From the language it seems that Australia is at an arm’s length from this deal. It sounds like, despite having been put in charge of the original seabed search, they are not party to this deal. What’s more, in being “conscious of not raising hopes for the loved ones of those on board” he sounds rather skeptical of the odds of success. I find this a little surprising given the tone of recent Australian pronouncements, such as the statement in the CSIRO’s “The search for MH370 and ocean surface drift – Part II” report that “we are now even more confident that the aircraft is within the new search area identified and recommended in the MH370 First Principles Review.”

Worth noting that Malaysia has not finalized a deal. Several news outlets are reporting that “the Malaysian Government has confirmed it has chosen a company [Ocean Infinity] to begin a new search for MH370 and is now negotiating the terms of the deal.”

So what, you ask, is Ocean Infinity? The Houston-based company seems to have sprung into existence recently; the oldest article I could find about the company was from last October. It owns a fleet of AUVs but leases its support ship from Swire Seabed, a subsidiary of the Hong Kong conglomerate. According to one source,

Swire Seabed already has a six-year contract in place for its new vessel with UK-based mapping company Ocean Infinity, the owner of the AUVs and USVs. The vessel will serve as the host for the multiple AUV operations in a combined venture between Ocean Infinity, with Swire Seabed providing survey processing and project management, and SeaTrepid DeepSea of Louisiana conducting operations of the AUVs.

Looks like somebody’s looking to gamble a lot of money on long odds. But whose money, exactly, is at stake?

UPDATE 10/21/17: I just received an email from Ocean Infinity’s media relations rep, Mark Antelme of Celicourt Communications. He says:

Thanks for getting in touch with the team.  At this stage, all we can really say (as a company spokesperson) is:

“Ocean Infinity are not yet able to confirm the final award of a contract to help in the search for MH370, but good progress has been made.  We remain optimistic that we will be able to try and help provide some answers to those who have been affected by this tragedy.”

There is a fair amount of info on the company here:  https://oceaninfinity.com/

Otherwise, we hope to be able to update people on the contract award over the coming days and we will make sure you receive any communication from us.

I wonder what the sticking points are.