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  • Dec 22, 2014
  • Updated: 5:01am
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

Only the Chinese talk about money in the present circumstances.
Yes you are correct, only the Chinese will talk about money. It surprised me though it took them that long before noticing! Horrible mentality!
If its true, it's a good thing China only sent ordinary Russian built cargo planes, otherwise it could have been really expensive for them if they had an hight tech useful gear to deploy. I really like the Xinhua photo of the Chinese planes apparently taking the lead. Note to editor....people in Hong Kong fear the PLA, they don't give a rats a$$ about the propaganda ploys, which you seems to inject so frequently nowadays.
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
This is a mystery that must put some doubt in the minds of everyone who flies. I think this search merits a contribution (in cash or resources, not unasked for satellite pictures) from every developed country and every commercial airline. in this case the search should be led by the US (the plane is American-made and they have the best assets) It is unfair to ask Australia to incur a disproportionate amount because the search area in nearest to them.
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.
Racist rubbish bagelbagel and stephan. Don't kid yourselves, all the humanitarian front talk by OZ, US, Brits etc is just that. Behind the veil of humantarianism they have raped the planet blind. China just hasn't reached the same level of ''sophistication'' yet.
May the guts be with you, such a seasoned one about China issues.
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.
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...



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