A Norwegian ship was on Thursday the first vessel to reach the area of the Indian Ocean where possible debris from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 was spotted by Australian authorities earlier this week, Höegh Autoliners, the ship’s owner has reported.
St Petersburg, a hulking cargo carrier with a deadweight tonnage of 27,352 tonnes, capable of carrying nearly 8,000 cars, arrived on the scene just after 9am Norwegian time, giving it nearly four hours of daylight with which to search visually for debris before the sun sets at 1pm Norwegian time.
Given that the ship was also facing bad weather, it was unlikely that any remains from the plane would be found on Thursday, a spokesman for the company said.
“There is a time limit here, as the best way of finding something is to do it visually,” Christian Dahll, a press officer for Höegh Autoliners told Norway’s VG newspaper.
Olav Sollie, vice president of communications for the company, told VG that the St. Petersburg had been asked to change course a couple of days ago.
“The ship was en route from South Africa to Perth in Australia and was asked to go further south in the Indian Ocean to the current exploration area,” he said. “Our mission is to be the eyes and ears in the area and to look for things in the water. We are doing this from the ship with our crews using binoculars and radars. This is coordinated with the Australian authorities and aircraft in the area.”
Haakon Svane, another spokesman for the company, told The Local that the ship’s crew had already spent more than three hours combing the sea’s surface.
“For the past three and half hours they have been inside a 16-nautical-mile area at the request of the Australian authorities,” he said. “So its basically locating the debris visually that has been spotted by satellite already. We expect this to take a little bit of time. We also expect that other vessels will join the search.”
After two weeks of false leads, Australia revived the investigation on the mysterious disappearance of flight MH370 when it announced the detection four days ago of two large “objects” in the southern Indian Ocean, some 2,500 kilometres (1,553 miles) southwest of Perth in western Australia.
Malaysia’s government on Thursday described the objects as a “credible lead” in the hunt for a plane which has now been missing for 12 days, its 239 passengers largely believed to be dead.
“It is hard to understand if the plane is there,” Roger Handeland, an expert from the Norwegian aircraft technician Organisation told Norway’s NRK channel. “If it turns out that the objects do belong to the Malaysia Airlines flight, it may indicate that the plane turned and flew almost in the opposite direction to where it was going. The aircraft must have been in the air for six, seven hours after the last confirmed position, and probably ran out of fuel.”
Australian officials say it could take several days to ascertain if the objects are indeed remnants from the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777.