China to deploy sonar vessel in Indian Ocean for MH370 search

The ship, which is currently in Singapore, will leave for Australia on Sunday.

China will join the ocean search for the Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 which went missing while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing almost two years ago.

Chinese vessel Dong Hai Jiu 101 will join the Australian-led search in the Indian Ocean in February, Australia's deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said on Friday.

"The Australian government welcomes the Dong Hai Jiu 101 to the search effort and thanks the government of the People's Republic of China for its generous contribution," Truss said.

Chinese premier Li Keqiang had offered Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in November that China would join the search for the flight, which went missing mysteriously with 239 passengers and crew, on March 8, 2014.

Australia has already deployed three vessels - Fugro Discovery, Fugro Equator and Havila Harmony - in its search operations in Indian Ocean off Western Australia.

Various theories, some scandalous and outlandish, had flourished after the mysterious disappearance of the plane. But the finding of a wing part off the Reunion island in July has indicated the plane must have crashed in the Indian ocean.

Chinese search vessel Dong Hai Jiu 101 is equipped with the ProSAS-60, a 6km depth-rated synthetic aperture sonar (SAS) towed system. The on-board sonar system will be operated by Phoenix International and Hydrospheric Solutions, the statement said.

Search zone

The ship, which is currently in Singapore, will leave for Australia on Sunday January 31.

Truss said the total value of the contribution by China in the search operation, which the most expensive in history, will be around A$20 million (S$20.2 million).

The discovery of the flaperon wing part in Reunion Island, which was confirmed to be part of the Boeing 777, has been the closest clue as to where the plane's fuselage could be found.

"We've made no commitments beyond (the designated search zone). But at the last meeting of ministers, the understanding was that the probability of us finding the aircraft outside that square was low and therefore further search effort in the absence of new information was not likely to be cost-effective," Truss had said in December.