CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — The first Chinese ship to search for the Malaysian airliner that vanished almost two years ago is due to depart Australia on Thursday for the southern Indian Ocean equipped with state-of-the-art sonar, a search agency said Wednesday.
The Dong Hai Jiu 101 had been testing its Synthetic Aperture Sonar off the west Australian coast in recent days and will drop off personnel at the port of Fremantle before departing for the vast search area 1,800 kilometer (1,100 miles) to the southwest, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau said in a statement.
The Chinese ship will become the fourth ship scouring a 120,000-square-kilometer (46,000-square-mile) expanse where Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 is thought to have crashed on March 8, 2014.
The search has had several setbacks through crew illness and equipment failures in recent months.
More than 85,000 square kilometers (32,800 square miles) of the search area have been scoured since late 2014, with Australia and Malaysia sharing the cost.
The Boeing 777 vanished after mysteriously flying far off course during a flight from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia to Beijing. A wing flap found in July on the other side of the Indian Ocean when it washed up on Reunion Island is the only debris recovered.
Most of the 239 people aboard Flight 370 were Chinese. Australia is conducting the search on behalf of Malaysia, where the plane was registered.