A private search by a U.S. firm for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which went missing in 2014 in one of the world’s biggest aviation mysteries, will end on Tuesday, Malaysian Transport Minister Anthony Loke said on Wednesday.
Flight MH370, carrying 239 people, disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014.
Malaysia had agreed in January to pay Houston-based Ocean Infinity up to $70 million if it found the plane during a 90-day search in the southern Indian Ocean.
The hunt for the Boeing 777 was previously expected to end in June, as the 90-day agreement did not cover time taken for refueling and resupplying search vessel Seabed Constructor.
However, Ocean Infinity had finished scouring its targeted search area in April and had requested an extension until May 29, Loke said.
“This morning I raised this (request) in cabinet and we agreed to extend to May 29,” he told reporters in Putrajaya, Malaysia’s administrative capital. Asked it that mean no further extensions, he said: “Yes.”
Newly elected Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad had earlier said Malaysia would review and possibly end its agreement with Ocean Infinity, amid other moves to cut government spending.
Mahathir, 92, ousted the long-ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, led by ex-premier and former protege Najib Razak, in a stunning election upset on May 9.
Loke, who was sworn in as minister on Monday, said the government would release a full report on the investigation into MH370’s disappearance after the offshore search was completed, but had not yet determined a date for the report’s release.
Voice 370, a group representing the relatives of those aboard the flight, had called on the new government to review all matters related to MH370, including “any possible falsification or elimination of records related to MH370 and its maintenance”.
“I’m not privy to whatever details that may not have been revealed, but as minister, I am committed to releasing all details to the public,” Loke said.
The decision to engage Ocean Infinity came after Australia, China and Malaysia ended a fruitless A$200 million ($159.38 million) search across a 120,000 square-km (46,332 square miles) area in the Indian Ocean last year, despite investigators calling for the target area to be extended 25,000 square kilometers (9653 square miles) north.
The Seabed Constructor has covered 86,000 square kilometers (33,205 square miles) so far but has yet to identify any significant findings, Ocean Infinity said in its weekly search update on May 15.