KUALA LUMPUR: The next-of-kin of those onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 have launched a campaign to initiate a privantely funded search for the plane, almost three years after the Boeing 777 vanished off radar screens.
The Australian, Malaysian and Chinese governments announced a suspension of the underwater search for the Beijing-bound aircraft in July 2016 after more than two years of scouring a zone determined by experts in the southern Indian Ocean.
Speaking at an event marking the third year since its disappearance on Saturday (Mar 4), the families said they are hoping to kick-start an alternative search in an area further north of the previous search zone - based on debris findings and drift modeling analysis - but it would require at least US$15 million.
When asked about this private search, Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said "everyone can come in and help" and that next-of-kin had come up with good proposals.
"We will discuss this," he said, when asked if the Malaysian government would contribute to the private search.
He added that two more suspected pieces of debris were found about two weeks ago in South Africa, bringing the total amount of suspected debris found to 27 pieces.
Of the 27, only three have been confirmed to be from MH370 due to "its unique manufacturing serial numbers confirmed by Boeing", while five are only almost certain to be from MH370 "due to lack of serial numbers, but is confirmed to be part of a Boeing 777". The only missing Boeing 777 in South Indian Ocean is MH370, said the Transport Minister, and the rest of the debris are still being verified and analysed.
"Speaking of debris management, currently, we have a standard operating procedure by means of a MOU (memorandum of understanding) with states along the African coasts including Madagascar, Mauritius and Maldives," Liow said in his speech at the remembrance event. "Upon discovery of a debris, the respective authorities in that particular state will notify Malaysia and send us a high-resolution photo.
“If the debris is an object of interest - for example, materials of an aircraft - the respective authorities will take custody of the item.
"Then we will either send a team to retrieve (the object of interest) from the authorities in that country or we will get help from our nearest foreign mission to take custody, or if the area is too remote we will make arrangements with the authorities over there to courier the debris back to Malaysia," Liow said.