Chinese ship to map seabed in 'new phase' of MH370 search

Chinese ship to map seabed in 'new phase' of MH370 search

A Chinese navy ship will start mapping the Indian Ocean seabed this week under the "new phase" in the hunt for the crashed Flight MH370, even as the damaged mini-submarine searching for the plane reached an Australian port for repairs, officials said today.

Malaysian, Australian and Chinese authorities met over the weekend in Fremantle, Western Australia, to discuss the bathymetric survey and agreed on the deployment of ship Zhu Kezhen for the purpose.

"It was agreed that the Chinese survey ship Zhu Kezhen will conduct the bathymetric survey of the areas provided by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau. Zhu Kezhen is scheduled to sail for the survey area on Wednesday, weather permitting," the Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) said.

Bathymetric survey, involving an extensive mapping of the seabed, is one of the main priorities given in the search for the ill-fated Malaysia Airlines plane which is now in its transition phase that prioritised ocean floor search.

Other priorities include re-analysing the data to verify a more accurate search area as well as identifying and deploying relevant towed and autonomous underwater vehicles required for the terrain.

Meanwhile, Australia's Ocean Shield arrived at Geraldton, Western Australia, yesterday to begin preparations to receive spare parts related to the transponder mounted on it and the transponder mounted on the Autonomous Underwater Vehicle, Bluefin-21.

"The repairs are necessary to correct a hardware issue affecting the ability of the transponders to communicate with each other during a dive. The problem became apparent during Bluefin-21's last mission on Tuesday," the JACC said.

The Ocean Shield was originally going to Dampier to await the transponder parts, however, it was determined that the parts could be delivered to the ship more quickly via the port of Geraldton.

Once the replacement parts are installed, testing will be conducted at Geraldton prior to Ocean Shield transiting back to the search area, the JACC said.

The Beijing-bound Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 - carrying 239 people, including five Indians, an Indo-Canadian and 154 Chinese nationals - had mysteriously vanished on March 8 after taking off from Kuala Lumpur on March 8.

Malaysia believes the Beijing-bound Boeing 777-200 plane was deliberately diverted by someone on board and that satellite data indicates it crashed in the Indian Ocean.

Australia has been leading the hunt for the plane which is believed to have crashed into the southern Indian Ocean but despite a massive air and sea search, including underwater using a US navy submersible, no sign of any wreckage has yet been found.

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