• Wed
  • Sep 17, 2014
  • Updated: 5:07pm
Malaysia Airlines flight 370
Flight MH370

Hunt for flight MH370 to be most expensive in history, say Chinese scientists

Chinese scientists warn that nations will face bill for hundreds of millions of US dollars, as Thai satellite pinpoints 300 objects in ocean

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 March, 2014, 11:39pm
UPDATED : Friday, 28 March, 2014, 11:51am

The hunt for doomed Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 is likely to be the most expensive in aviation history, Chinese scientists warned yesterday, as Thailand said it had spotted hundreds of objects near the search area in the Indian Ocean.

The annual bill could run to 10 times that of the two-year hunt for an Air France plane five years ago and would cost hundreds of millions of US dollars, they said.

France and Brazil spent more than US$40 million over two years to recover the black boxes from Air France flight 447, which crashed in the Atlantic Ocean in 2009 en route to Rio de Janeiro from Paris. Officials halted the operation, which used underwater robots to scour the seabed, after search crews found 50 of the 228 bodies.

But Zhao Chaofang , an oceanographer at the Ocean University of China in Qingdao , estimated that the cost of finding MH370 could total more than 10 times that of the Air France search annually.

US$200 million per year is barely enough to maintain the effort

Some scientists believe China alone has already spent hundreds of millions of yuan, he added. "If the operation is stretched to a long-term search for years, US$200 million per year is barely enough to maintain the multinational effort," Zhao said.

A senior researcher at the Civil Aviation University of China, who declined to be named, agreed the cost would "far, far exceed" that of the Air France search. Experts said it was unclear who might ultimately foot the cost of finding MH370.

But Hishammuddin Hussein, Malaysia's acting transport minister, has stressed that the country had not discussed the issue with other nations.

"Nobody, not the Malaysian government, none of our partners, have talked about dollars and cents," he said. "It's all about trying to find the aircraft. It did not even cross our minds."

Thailand said a satellite pinpointed about 300 objects near where planes and ships have been hunting for debris from MH370 in the southern Indian Ocean, where it crashed on March 8 after taking off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing.

But storms caused Australia to pull back all planes due to continue the search yesterday.

No international protocol exists to assign or split accident investigation costs. Oh Ei Sun, of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, said that in theory, the lead investigating nation should pay.

But in practice, participating nations usually helped with the costs to show goodwill.

Crews from 27 nations, including Malaysia, have mobilised resources and contributed to the search for the plane, Malaysian officials said.

China has 10 ships on the mission, Australia five, Malaysia six, and there is one from the UK. Each of these ships burns at least 1,000 yuan (HK$1,260) of fuel per hour, Zhao said.

The cost of the deployment of satellites will also add up. China has used more than 20 satellites, Zhao said. Each of these satellites cost about 400 million yuan, with an average life span of about four years, potentially costing one billion yuan already, he said.

Additional reporting by Ernest Kao, Teddy Ng, Danny Lee, Associated Press


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This article is now closed to comments

Yes the lead investigating nation will pay and will squeeze the tax paying citizens and probably the next generation to foot the bill. These poor souls will bail out the airlines for the 2nd time (or is it the 3rd time?). It has no bargaining power requiring assets from the other countries.
Malaysia has no money. They were almost bankrupt last year. With this drama, they will lose Chinese tourists. This will cost Malaysia 3-9 billion ringgit a year and if this is not recovered, may cost Malaysia even more (10 - 20 billion ringgit a year) Where are they going to get the money from? Malaysia money tree?
Well an argument could be made China's involvement is increasing the costs.
Given that China has provided some additional planes and boats, none of what they supplied is cutting edge search and rescue gear. They are also not experienced in search and rescue on the high seas. All of the other participants are allies and are on regular training schedules together and participate in biannual exercises. They know each other, their equipment, their capabilities and how each other operates. Having China around means that more technologically advanced equipment, perhaps such as the global hawk drone, which can send live video feeds and loiter for 22 hours will not be used in order to prevent China from being to close to such technologies, which they obviously hope to learn as much as possible about. Thus, the search is probably being slowed down in the absence of the best technological advances not being on the scene. it would be difficult to push China away though as most of the Western militaries are trying to establish at least some kind of relationship with them.
When do "scientists" get involved with financial calculations? It seems only in China !!! Worse thing is they get their math totally wrong. A few days of search cost the US government $2.5M (as reported last week) while these scientists claim that China has spent RMB 400M ($66M). Maybe they are so used to inflating the cost for everything.
The voodoo math that these so called scientists employed is nonsensical. How can you include "sunk cost" into your calculations ? Incredulous ! The only cost you can include are incremental costs. These satellites, aircarfts, vessels and most people costs were already paid for regardless of this or any tragedy. Also, how can you amortize all the satellites' costs to this one event? You mean China launched these 2 dozens satellites in anticipation of MH 370's crash. Absurd and beyond comprehension but does this make perfect sense in China ? These scientists should stick to their day job
I think you better do your own calculation. How much to fly an aircraft? Just petrol? Use your grey matter a bit and you will know it is not just petrol. You will need to maintain the aircraft, change spare part, coordinate the effort, do lots of things. You think that is a sunk cost? You think MH lose billions because they didn't factor in sunk cost? Please.... Use that grey matter. MH lose millions because they already have the planes, but need to maintain them. They already got the staff and people but got to pay them. They already have the building but need to pay for the maintenance. You think when China or the other nations went to search for the plane, the staff eat from the sea? Catch their own fish?
Multiple plusses are beckoning:
1) Boeing and Airbus in future can spec up their 'state-of-the art' list prices for another USD$10M option to have for all-weather transponders that transmit during on-board fire and in depths of ocean upto 1km.
2) Retro-fitting bulletin to all existing customers for 'state-of-the-art' 10-year-old B737, B757, B767 & B777 the same functionalities for USD$15M per jet. For 15 year old jets $20M.
3) Have KBR, Airscan etc approach Malaysian military and offer to upgrade all their military satellites at a discount, say USD$0.5Trillion, payable over 50 years at Fed+0.5%.
4) Inform AIA AIG Lloyds and all good principal insurers to up their premium for SAR, bereftment and damage compensation generally, and 50% more if condition 1-2-3 are not met.
Ant Lee
This article is lame and does not make sense and by referring the the 400m yuan for each satellite for the rescue operation is utterly misleading and irresponsible. Almost all of the so called "costs" would have been incurred for military exercises anyway. The reality is the costs are now "allocated" to this operation rather other military exercises or missions.
You make no sense. How a nation used their money is their business. If they spend million in military exercises, that is their prerogative. Malaysia spent millions in lawsuits and elections, etc but that is ok. Spend millions in repairing already bad roads to make it better for a few days for elections, that is ok. I am not here to criticize anybody. Please don't make stupid comments like we deserve to get help. We don't. We screwed up, we help ourselves. People help us, we say thank you. Not say people are lame...
Ant Lee
You are lame.
Though the bill is likely to be astronomical no resources or efforts should be spared in revealing the truth. If the truth isnt discovered some people will have a deep fear of flying. Currently, there is still speculation from some parties on what transpired and this will stoke tensions between nations. That alone is even more costly.




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