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New equipment to scour for MH370 up to two months away

Officials on Monday said it could be up to two months before new, more sophisticated equipment will be in the water to help the search for flight MH370 across what will be largely unmapped ocean floor.

CANBERRA: Officials on Monday said it could be up to two months before new, more sophisticated equipment will be in the water to help the search for flight MH370 across what will be largely unmapped ocean floor.

The hunt for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane that disappeared on March 8 carrying 239 people was scaled back last week after coming up with nothing, despite an air and sea search of 4.64 million square kilometres of the southern Indian Ocean.

Australia on Monday hosted a meeting in Canberra with the transport ministers of Malaysia and China to determine the way forward, which will focus on an intensified undersea search.

Speaking at a joint press conference after a trilateral meeting with Chinese and Malaysian officials, Australia's Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said the next part of the investigation "will need need more sophisticated equipment... to recover any debris that might be on the floor of the ocean".

He said a tender process would start soon to acquire them, but it would likely be two months before the equipment was actually in the water, while more oceanographic mapping was required to better understand where they would be looking.

"We are optimistic that we can do most of this in the space of one to two months so we will actually have more hardware in the water within a couple of months," Truss said.

Meetings will start on Wednesday in Canberra with international experts to re-examine satellite imagery and data collected so far, as well as discuss what assets will be required for the search.

Meanwhile, the Joint Agency Coordinating centre, which has been organising the search, will be moved from Perth to Canberra.

Truss refused to put a time frame on when the plane might be found.

"We obviously have no idea when it's likely to be found, we just always hope it is tomorrow," he said.

"But so far our very, very best leads, and on days when we were quite confident that it was going to be the day, have all proved fruitless so it would be unduly optimistic to name a day or time."

Australia has estimated that the next phase of the search will cost $60 million, but Truss said participating nations will be consulted on this figure.

"The estimate of $60 million cost is Australia's estimate of what we think this next phase will cost. And we will need to discuss with Malaysia and with China and with other parties who have an interest in this, how that or whatever other costs there might be might be shared."

The deputy prime minister added that up to now, all countries have borne their own cost.

At the press conference on Monday, Malaysia's Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said the four possibilities that are being looked at with regard to the disapearance of MH370  -- terrorism, hijacking, personal situations, psychological -- have not been ruled out by authorities working on the case.

"I think the chief of police made it very clear that we are looking at all possibilities and focusing on four areas -- terrorism, hijacking, personal situations and probably psychological," he said.

"So I don't think the police working with the intelligence agencies, whether it is the FBI and now we're talking about international satellite information, the CIA with the Chinese intelligence, they've been on board from the beginning and I think all those four possibilities have not been ruled out."

Hishammuddin also thanked the Australian and Chinese authorities for their involvement "because I believe that for the families especially, the search goes on".

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