PETALING JAYA - All four vessels involved in the search for MH370 deployed simultaneously for the first time in the southern Indian Ocean, said Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.
"All four vessels have been deployed in the search ops, but for the first time all four in the search area at the same time/concurrently #MH370," tweeted Liow.
Three vessels - Go Phoenix, Fugro Equator and Fugro Discovery - are equipped with towed vehicles (towfish) synthetic aperture sonar, side scan sonar and multi-beam echo sounders.
These instruments collect data which is relayed in real time to the vessels where it is processed and analysed, to determine if there is any evidence of debris on the seafloor associated with MH370.
The Fugro Supporter is equipped with a Kongsberg HUGIN 4500 autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV).
The AUV can turn, ascend and descend rapidly to maintain a constant altitude above the sea floor in areas of challenging bottom topography. The AUV is being used to search areas which are difficult or inefficient for the towed systems to search.
The HUGIN 4500 AUV is equipped with instruments identical to the towfish on Fugro Discovery and Fugro Equator.
Australia's Joint Agency Coordination Centre's (JACC) latest operational report stated that search operations were hindered earlier this month due to weather conditions associated with the tropical cyclones Diamondra and Eunice.
"Conditions prevented the safe launch and retrieval of search equipment between Feb 1 and 5. The vessels evaded the storms and resumed search operations in the following days," stated the report.
JACC stated Fugro Equator resumed underwater search operations on Feb 5, but departed the search area yesterday to conduct re-supply in Fremantle. Fugro Discovery experienced some difficulties with its towfish communications after relaunching on Sunday.
"The towfish was recovered to deck once weather conditions permitted, repairs were undertaken and the underwater search then resumed," stated the report.
Fugro Supporter used a break in the weather to conduct an AUV mission last Friday and resumed regular underwater search operations on Monday.
Go Phoenix arrived in the search area and recommenced search operations on Tuesday.
JACC said more than 22,000sq km of the sea floor or 36 per cent of the priority search area had been searched thus far.
"Assuming no other significant delays with vessels, equipment or from the weather, the current underwater search area may be largely completed around May," the report stated.