The Australian contracted survey vessel Fugro Equator has commenced operations in a defined MH370 search area, joining Chinese PLA-Navy ship Zhu Kezhen in undertaking survey activities, Australian Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) said in a release.
Under the direction of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), the two vessels are conducting the bathymetric survey—or mapping of the sea floor—which is crucial to carrying out the deep water search for MH370 that is scheduled to commence in August.
At the end of May, Zhu Kezhen suffered a defect to its multibeam echosounder and came into the port of Fremantle to enable the necessary repairs to be conducted.
The defect has been rectified and the ship will resume operations in the search area shortly.
So far, the Zhu Kezhen has surveyed 4,088 square kilometres of the ocean floor.
It is anticipated that it will take at least three months to complete the bathymetric survey of the 60,000 square kilometre search zone.
According to JACC, the ships will regularly send survey data to the ATSB and Geoscience Australia. This data will be used to progressively build a map of the search area.
The search area will be confirmed before the end of June, after completion of extensive collaborative analysis by a range of specialists.
It is already clear from the provisional results of that analysis that the search zone will move, but still be on the seventh arc (where the aircraft last communicated with satellite).
Press Release, June 19, 2014