Officials this month confirmed that five new pieces of debris that could belong to the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 have been found in Madagascar.
The findings were made by debris hunger Blaine Gibson, who has previously found other parts of the plane. Mr Gibson, a laywer from Seattle, has funded his own search for debris in eastern Africa. According to officials, two fragments appear to show burn marks, which if confirmed would be the first time that such marks have been found. Mr Gibson has disclosed that the two alleged burnt pieces were recovered near Sainte Luce, in southeastern Madagascar. It is unclear, however, if the apparent burn marks were caused by fire prior to the crash or as a result of burning afterwards. Another small piece was found in the same area while the two other pieces were located in the northeastern beaches of Antsiraka and Riake, where debris had already been found. All of the five fragments located this month have the “honeycomb” material that was found in other MH370 debris. The new discovered have been sent to investigators at the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB).
A number of other pieces of debris, some confirmed to have come from MH370, have been found in countries near Madagascar. They include a section of the wing called a flaperon, which was found on Reunion Island, and a horizontal stabilizer from the tail section and a stabilizer panel with a “No Step” stencil that were discovered in Mozambique.
MH370, which was flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, had 239 people on board when it vanished on March 2014. The flight is presumed to have crashed into the southern Indian Ocean after veering off course. Australia has been leading the search for the missing aircraft, using underwater drones and sonar equipment deployed from specialist ships. The search, which also involves China and Malaysia, has led to more than 105,000 sq km (65,000 sq miles) of the 120,000 sq km search zone being searched so far. Countries have agreed that in the absence of “credible new information” the search is expected to end later this year.
A world-leading air crash investigator has stated that he believes that flight MH370 was deliberately flown into the sea. The Boeing 777 disappeared while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board in March 2014.
Speaking to Australian news programme 60 Minutes, Canadian Larry Vance disclosed that erosion along the trailing edge of recovered wing parts indicates a controlled landing. Mr Vance was formerly investigator-in-charge for the Canadian Aviation Safety Board and the Transportation Safety Board of Canada. He has led more than 200 air crash investigations. He was the chief author of a report into the 1998 Swissair flight 111 crash off Nova Scotia, Canada, in which 229 people were killed. The force of that crash broke the plane into more than two million pieces. He has told 60 Minutes that an absence of such wreckage was one factor that suggests MH370 landed in controlled circumstances. During the programme, he states that “somebody was flying the airplane at the end of its flight…Somebody was flying the airplane into the water. There is no other alternate theory that you can follow.”
An Australian-led search for the mission jet has focused on an area of the ocean floor 2,000 kilometres (1,242 miles) off Australia’s western coast. The zone was selected based on the theory that the flight was running on autopilot after veering off course. An official co-ordinating the search effort however has told 60 Minutes that the wreckage could be outside the search zone, if someone had been in control of the plane when it crashed. Despite the extensive search of the southern Indian Ocean, no trace of the aircraft was found until the discovery of a wing section, called a flaperon, on Reunion Island off Madagascar one year ago. Mr Vance states that photographs of the recovered flaperon depict a jagged edge, which suggests high-pressure water erosion that could only be caused if someone had been flying the plane into the ocean. He further states that “the force of the water is really the only thing that could make that jagged edge that we see. It wasn’t broken off. If it was broken off, it would be a clean break. You couldn’t even break that thing.” He also disclosed that the fact that the flaperon had apparently been deployed for landing also indicated that someone was piloting the plane when it hit the ocean, stating, “you cannot get the flaperon to extend any other way than if somebody extended it…Somebody would have to select it.” Peter Foley, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau’s (ATSB) programme director of the search, has also told 60 Minutes that the type of damage the flaperon sustained provided evidence for the controlled landing theory. Mr Foley was asked: “If there was a rogue pilot, isn’t it possible that the plane was taken outside the parameters of the search area?” To which he replied: “Yeah – if you guided the plane or indeed control-ditched the plane, it has an extended range, potentially,” adding, “there is a possibility…somebody (was) in control at the end and we are actively looking for evidence to support that.”
Mr Vance’s theory is just the latest to emerge on what has become one of aviation’s greatest unsolved mysteries. The search for MH370 has been combing a 120,000 sq km area of seabed using underwater drones and sonar equipment from specialist ships. It is expected to draw to a close by the end of the year if it does not find credible new evidence.
Confirmed/Suspected MH370 Debris Found
- A section of wing called a flaperon, found on Reunion Island in July 2015 was confirmed in September 2015 as debris from MH370.
- Horizontal stabilizer from tail section was found between Mozambique and Madagascar in December 2015.
- Stabilizer panel with “No Step” stencil was found in Mozambique in February 2016.
- Engine cowling bearing Rolls-Royce logo was found in March 2016 in Mossel Bay, South Africa.
- A fragment of interior door panel was found in Rodrigues Island, Mauritius in March 2016.
- Fragments, including what appears to be a seat frame, a coat hook and other panels, were found on Nosy Boraha Island in northeast Madagascar.
A Singapore-registered tanker sailing in Malaysian waters has been boarded by pirates and robbed of its marine fuel, Malaysian coast guard officials have confirmed. Port authorities lost contact with the ship late on 8 August, several hours after it had set sail from the Indonesian city of Tanjung Pinang. The ship, which was en route to the Malaysian island of Langkawi, was carrying a crew of ten and 3,500 tonnes of marine fuel when it was attacked. Two of the crew members sustained injuries after the vessel was boarded and they have since been hospitalised.
According to information from the International Chamber of Commerce’s International Maritime Bureau (IMB), over the past six months pirate attacks in Southeast Asia are the highest that they have been in twelve years. By contrast, there have been no reported incidents of piracy off the coast of Somalia, or in the Red Sea, Arabian Sea or in the Gulf of Aden. If this trend continues, 2015 could be the first year since 2006 that Somali pirates were prevented from claiming any prizes.
Worldwide, the IMB reported a total of 134 pirate attacks from January to June this year, an increase of 18 attacks over the same period last year but still below 2011’s record breaking 266. It is not, however, the relative increase in the frequency of attacks that is the most striking feature of the IMB data – it is the overall change in their geographic distribution. Indonesia, for instance, recorded 54 attacks over the reporting period, the highest number since 2010, while Vietnam and Bangladesh suffered 13 and 11 respectively. The Strait of Malacca, a notorious hotspot for piracy, has also seen an uptick in pirate activity.
Various factors have been attributed to the decline in Somali piracy – amongst them the increase in naval patrols and the “target hardening” efforts of shipowners”, who have gone to considerable lengths to make their vessels harder to board, including the use of armed guards. Nevertheless, shipowners’ have been warned against becoming complacent. While it is certainly unusual for there to have been no incidents of piracy reported over the first six months of the year, Michael Howlett, deputy director of the IMB said that the threat had not vanished. “We still advise masters to be aware. [The pirates] still have the capacity [to launch attacks]. It only takes one successful attack for this business model to be relaunched,” he said.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has reshuffled his cabinet amid an ongoing corruption scandal that continues to threaten the stability of his administration. On Tuesday this week Najib dismissed his Attorney General, Abdul Gani Patil, who had been investigating the Malaysian leader over embezzlement allegations, along with deputy PM Muhyiddin Yassin, who had called on the premier to answer the charges laid against him. Four other Malaysian lawmakers have also been sacked in what Najib’s critics have described as a purge designed to prevent the premier’s alleged involvement in the scandal from being thoroughly investigated.
On 13 July, Malaysian police said that an investigation had been launched into the release of confidential documents to the Sarawak Report and the Wall Street Journal, which are reported to contain proof of how millions of dollars were siphoned into the PM’s private accounts from a variety of banks, government agencies and other companies connected to 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) – a state investment fund chaired by Najib. These reports claim that five deposits were made in Najib’s accounts, the two largest of which – worth $681 million collectively – occurred during Malaysia’s 2013 election campaign. A special task force has been convened to investigate the case; so far, six of Najib’s bank accounts have been frozen and seventeen more are under investigation.
While Najib does not deny ownership of the accounts or that money was deposited in them, he utterly rejects the allegations of graft and corruption made by his critics and the Wall Street Journal, against whom he is considering taking legal action. In a televised address that took place after the reshuffle, Najib said: “I can accept differences in opinion and criticisms as part of the decision-making process, but these differences in opinion should not be made in an open forum that can affect the public perception of the government and the country.” Representatives for 1MDB have also rejected claims there was anything untoward in their financial dealings with the PM.
While professing his innocence of any wrongdoing, Najib has accused former Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad of masterminding an act of “political sabotage” which he claims is an attempt to bring down the government and remove him from power. Certainly, Mahathir has been instrumental in undercutting public confidence in Najib, whose approval ratings have dropped sharply over the past year, but there has otherwise been no conclusive evidence of any such conspiracy.
As the investigation progresses, questions continue to be asked about the future of Malaysia’s leadership. If a smoking gun were found which directly implicated Najib in an embezzlement scam, it seems likely that the United Malay’s National Organization (UMNO) party would drop him as a means of preserving their 58-year long rule. If not, he may be able to weather the storm, provided that the reshuffle hasn’t exhausted his supply of political goodwill within the party.
23 April- Armed pirates have raided an oil tanker in the Malacca Strait off the coast of Malaysia and took three crew members with them. Eight Indonesian pirates in a fishing vessel boarded the Naniwa Maru No 1 at 0100 local time on Tuesday off the coast of west Malaysia. The pirates pumped out nearly 3 million litres of diesel carried by the tanker into two waiting vessels and made off with three Indonesian crew members, including the captain, his first officer, and the chief engineer.
The Naniwa Maru No 1 was hijacked in position 02° 59’N, 100° 54’E, about 16nm off western Malaysia near the town of Port Klang. The ship was en route to Myanmar. The boarding party grouped the 18 crew members in a room and robbed them of mobile phones and cash, while two other ships pulled alongside and drained the tanker for about eight hours.
The Malacca Strait is a route for nearly one fourth of the world’s maritime oil trade. The incident has fuelled fears that piracy could be on the rise in the area, and cause an increase in ship insurance premiums.
Noel Choong, head of the International Maritime Bureau’s Malaysia-based Piracy Reporting Centre, said, “It’s the first time this has happened so far north in the Malacca Strait, and the first time they have kidnapped the crew. It’s not an area where we have seen the modus operandi of ships hijacked for their cargo.”
Malaysian authorities have announced they are now investigating whether the missing captain and two senior crew members were involved in the piracy plot. The captain, the chief engineer and first officer, identified as Indonesian nationals, left the ship with their personal belongings and the ship’s manifest. No ransom demand has been made.
Abdul Rahim Abdullah, deputy commander of Malaysia’s marine police said the incident was more sophisticated than a typical pirate attack. “I have discounted kidnapping. Our focus now will be on the involvement of the three crew who were taken away by the perpetrators.”
Abdul-Rahim added that detailed technical knowledge of the ship and its operations would be required to conduct this operation. The tanker and the ships to which it was off-loading had to be kept at a constant speed and on the same course while the diesel was being pumped out.
The Naniwa Maru No 1 is owned by Altra Propserous Ltd. of Saint Kitts and Nevis and is under the management of Canter Singapore Ltd., a Singapore-based company. It is docked in Malaysian waters pending further investigation.
The Strait of Malacca between Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia is one of the world’s busiest waterways and has historically been plagued by piracy, but attacks and armed robbery have declined in recent years. However, a risk of armed robbery remains present in ports and anchorages regionally. Vessels are urged to review their anti-piracy plans to mitigate the risk of attacks in the eastern extent of the Malacca straits. Risk of violence directed at crew members can be high.