SYDNEY - The Australian agency leading the search for missing airliner MH370 is calling for expressions of interest for the recovery of the Malaysian jet, if it is found, Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said Thursday.
The passenger aircraft was carrying 239 people when it disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8 and there has been no sign of it since, despite a massive air and sea operation.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), which is heading up the hunt in the remote Indian Ocean off western Australia, has so far scoured 26 per cent of the 60,000 square kilometre (23,000 square mile) priority underwater search area.
"While no wreckage from the missing aircraft has yet been found, preparations are being made so a recovery operation can be mobilised quickly and effectively when needed," Truss said in a statement Thursday.
"Responses to the request for expressions of interest will allow the ATSB to assess which organisations are able to supply the equipment and expertise required for any recovery operation." The expressions of interest are due February 18, a spokesman for Truss told AFP, with any recovery decisions to be jointly made by the Australian and Malaysian governments.
Three specialist search vessels, with a fourth on the way, are probing the isolated region. The ATSB believes the plane may be sitting on the ocean floor at depths of 4,000 metres (13,123 feet).
The search of the priority area is expected to end in May.
The ATSB told AFP last week that a recovery plan, which has been drawn up and is being assessed by authorities, would use technology and techniques similar to those deployed to recover Air France flight AF447. The French flag carrier crashed in the Atlantic en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris in 2009, killing all 228 on board.