Australia’s JACC, which is leading the arduous and expensive search in the Indian Ocean for the Boeing 777, said it would not be expanded beyond its current area — 120,000 sq.km zone — without any specific new leads, Xinhua news agency reported.
In April, over a year after the plane vanished on March 8, 2014, en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board, Malaysia, Australia and China announced that the search zone would be doubled.
But the lack of any meaningful progress forced the JACC to announce that the search would be wound up early in 2016 unless there was a positive development in the meantime.
“In the absence of credible new information that leads to the identification of a specific location of the aircraft, governments have agreed that there will be no further expansion of the search area,” the JACC said.
The current search has already cost Australia $80 million and Malaysia $45 million.
Rough winter seas have also delayed recent search efforts.
No wreckage from MH370 has ever been found, leading Malaysian authorities in January to declare that all the people on-board were presumed dead.
“Over the coming weeks, search operations will be focused in the south to take advantage of the last of the better weather in that area prior to the expected onset of continuous poor weather during winter,” the centre said.
The speed of the search will increase when conditions improve, however search vessel GO Phoenix will cease operations and return to Singapore at the end of the month.
A fourth vessel previously involved in the search, Fugro Supporter, which carried an autonomous underwater vehicle that scans the ocean bed, was withdrawn in May.
Over 50,000 sq.km of the seafloor has been scoured so far with no trace of the aircraft.