Malaysia Australia and China end deep-water search for MH370
FILE PHOTO Handwritten notes on how a crew member should report the sighting of debris in the southern Indian Ocean is pictured on a window aboard a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion aircraft searching for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, March 22, 2014. REUTERS/Jason Reed/File Photo

A costly and expansive search operation that at times struggled for direction and focus, has been officially abandoned nearly three years after Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 diapered. Malaysia, China and Australia said in a joint statement on Tuesday the search for Boeing 777 aircraft that disappeared on March 8, 2014, has ended.

The MH370 Tripartite Joint Communique signed by the transport ministers of the three countries said the last vessel in the 120,000-square kilometre search area will end its operations in the absence of any results.

"Despite every effort using the best science available, cutting edge technology, as well as modelling and advice from highly skilled professionals who are the best in their field, unfortunately, the search has not been able to locate the aircraft," the statement said. "Accordingly, the underwater search for MH370 has been suspended."

The plane disappeared with 239 passengers and crew while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. In January 2015, Malaysia declared Flight MH370 was lost in an accident and that all on board were presumed dead.

However, families of people missing with MH 370 have been waging legal battles in various parts of the world.

"Whilst combined scientific studies have continued to refine areas of probability, to date no new information has been discovered to determine the specific location of the aircraft ... We remain hopeful that new information will come to light and that at some point in the future, the aircraft will be located," the ministers said.

The statement said the decision to suspend the underwater search was not taken lightly but that it was consistent with the decisions made in the July 2016 Ministerial Tripartite meeting in Putrajaya.

Malaysia Airlines (MAS) said it "stands guided by the decision of the three governments." and that the search for the missing plane was "thorough and comprehensive". "MAS remains hopeful that in the near future, new and significant information will come to light and the aircraft would eventually be located," MAS said, according to Reuters.