(Reuters) - A private company said it had found what it believes is wreckage of a plane in the Bay of Bengal that should be investigated as potential debris from missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, but the possibility was dismissed by search coordinators.
The Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) managing the multinational search for the missing plane said it believed that the plane came down in the southern Indian Ocean off Australia.
“I think that we have been looking in the right place,” Angus Houston, the head of JACC, told Sky New Australia. “I‘m confident the aircraft will be found.”
A massive search operation involving satellites, aircraft, ships and sophisticated underwater equipment capable of scouring the ocean floor has failed to turn up any trace of the Boeing 777, which disappeared on March 8.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on Monday the chance of finding floating debris was now remote, and a new phase of the search would focus on the seabed northwest of the Australian city of Perth.
Australian geophysical survey company GeoResonance said it had been conducting its own search for the plane and had found what appeared to be plane wreckage in the Bay of Bengal, thousands of miles from the current search area.
“The company is not declaring this is MH370, however it should be investigated,” GeoResonance said in a statement.
GeoResonance said it had passed on the information to Malaysian Airlines and the Malaysian and Chinese embassies in Australia on March 31, and to the JACC on April 4.
“The company and its directors are surprised by the lack of response from the various authorities,” GeoResonance said.
“This may be due to a lack of understanding of the company’s technological capabilities, or the JACC is extremely busy, or the belief that the current search in the Southern Indian Ocean is the only plausible location of the wreckage.”
GeoResonance says on its website that it offers a unique and proven method of geophysical survey that detects electromagnetic fields from various chemical elements. GeoResonance did not respond to requests for further comment.
The Australian-led search team said it was relying on information from satellite and other data to determine the missing aircraft’s whereabouts and the location in the GeoResonance report was not within that search arc.
Malaysia’s Transport Ministry said it was assessing the credibility of the latest report.
Flight MH370, carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew, went missing en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in what investigators suspect was a “deliberate act”.
After weeks of fruitless searching some 4.5 million sq km (1.7 million sq miles) of the remote southern Indian Ocean for floating debris, aircraft and ships from Japan, China, the United States, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand are now returning to their regular duties.
Australia now plans to contract commercial companies to undertake a sonar search of a 60,000 sq km (24,000 sq mile) area of seabed that could take eight months or more at a cost of about A$60 million ($55.61 million).
Up to 26 countries, including several global and regional rivals, have been involved in the search.
“To see such significant depth of international cooperation coming together for one mission is unprecedented and highly encouraging for the security and stability of the region,” Vice Admiral Robert Thomas, the commander of the U.S. Seventh Fleet said. ($1 = 1.0789 Australian dollars)
Reporting By Lehar Maan in Bangalore and Lincoln Feast in Sydney; Editing by Robert Birsel