PUTRAJAYA: There is no cause for panic! Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai has clarified Wednesday that Seabed Constructor, the vessel tasked to search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, is not missing but had just switched off its tracking system.
He said the ship's transponder was turned off because it was on its way to the Fremantle Port to replenish its supplies as well as to refuel before heading out again.
"I have instructed the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM) to keep the media updated on the search (for the missing aircraft) from time to time," he told reporters after the Cabinet meeting.
Liow said this in response to reports that had highlighted concerns and speculations on the reason why Seabed Constructor had gone 'dark' for three days.
Seabed Constructor was reported to have begun searching for MH370 on Jan 22 and 10 days into its search, the ship's Automatic Identification System (AIS) was switched off.
International media had reported that the three-day 'blackout' triggered conspiracy theories in cyberspace, including one that the vessel had detoured to recover sunken treasure from nearby wreck SV Inca, a Peruvian ship that sunk in 1911, while en route to Sydney.
Liow said he had been told that the vessel had turned off its transponder because it was on its way back to port and there was no reason for the tracking system to be on.
It was reported that the search operations for MH370 has started in a new area spanning 25,000 sq km of the Indian Ocean.
Malaysia government has signed a deal with United States-based exploration firm Ocean Infinity Limited to officially continue the search for the missing aircraft.
The deal is on a "no cure, no fee" whereby debris found within the first 5,000 sq km will be paid US$20 million (RM82 million), and for the subsequent 10,000 sq km, a sum of US$30 million (RM122 million) will be paid; and for another 10,000 sqkm, US$50 million (RM204 million) will be paid.
Beyond that area, Ocean Infinity will be paid a total of US$70 million (RM280 million), however the search must be completed within a 90-day time frame.