Dutch multinational technical consultancy Fugro has been selected by the Australia Government to lead the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370 (MH370) on the Indian Ocean seafloor.
The move comes after months of hunting revealed no evidence of the missing Boeing 777.
Under the contract, the company plans to deploy two vessels, Fugro Discovery and Fugro Equator, to undertake the search operations.
The vessels will be equipped with towed deep-water vehicles, sonar scanners, multi-beam echo sounders and underwater cameras to locate the aircraft debris.
Led by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, the search will cover an area spanning 60,000km² and is expected to begin within a month, and run up to a year.
The Dutch firm has already dispatched the Fugro Discovery vessel to Perth from the UK, while the Fugro Equator will join the hunt after completion of work in the middle of September.
Speaking to reporters, Australia Transport Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said: “I remain cautiously optimistic that we will locate the missing aircraft within the priority search area.
“This search will obviously be a challenging one.”
Four Malaysian vessels, including two ships equipped with side-scan sonar and remotely operated vehicles, are expected to join the search efforts along with Fugro.
A naval survey ship, the KD Mutiara, is due to join the bathymetric survey work later this month, while another vessel, Bunga Mas, will continue to aid the search.
A Chinese vessel, the Zhu Kezhen, will also continue to survey the sea floor until the middle of September.
The Beijing-bound MH370 aircraft, carrying 239 passengers and crew, disappeared from radar screens on 8 March, one hour after it took off from Kuala Lumpur.