Transcript: Interview with Project Director in the search for MH370
Interviewer: Well first of all can I get you to state your name and position on board [indistinct]
Paul Kennedy: My name's Paul Kennedy. I'm the Project Director for the search for MH370 on behalf of Fugro Worldwide.
Interviewer: Can you please tell me about the crew that make Fugro Discovery [indistinct] search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370?
Paul Kennedy: The crew on board Fugro Discovery are very much multinational in nature. They come from a list of at least 12 countries on the current swing. That includes the UK, the USA, Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia, Estonia, Russia, France and Scotland.
Interviewer: Can you please tell me about the specialist equipment that's on board Fugro Discovery on this swing of the search?
Paul Kennedy: Yes, well we've got two forms of equipment on the vessel. We've got the hull-mounted equipment and we also have the equipment which we tow behind the vessel on something called the deep tow.
Interviewer: And can you tell me about the deep tow, why it's so pertinent to this sort of search?
Paul Kennedy: Yes, the deep tow on board the vessel is called ‘Dragon’. It's got three forms of senses on board, which, the way I like to make an analogy is it's got ears, it can listen, that's the acoustic sensors on board, it's got eyes, that's the cameras, and it's got a nose, it's got a sniffer, it can sniff jet fuel.
Interviewer: Can you tell me about the trials at the moment that Fugro Discovery are conducting just off Rottnest Island?
Paul Kennedy: Yes, in order to, before we go to site, we actually have to prove that the equipment is fully functioning, such that when we're on location and we start searching, if we run over the aircraft, the debris field, we actually will know, we will detect it, so there's no question that if we run over the area, it's a very expensive search. We want to make sure that when we run over it we know we don't miss it by accident. We'll never go back there again. It's a one shot deal. We must find it. Every time we run over a line, we'll never go back there again for a second look.
Interviewer: What difficulties do you see the crew and the ship facing over the coming months of the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370?
Paul Kennedy: Well there's some difficulties for the people on board the boat. The first one is the remoteness. We're more than seven days' sail from the nearest civilisation, which is Western Australia, so that's an awful long way, if things go wrong, if somebody gets hurt, it's an awful long way to come back if someone breaks a bone or has a heart attack, we're an awful long way from serious medical attention. We have a doctor on board the boat, which sort of mitigates that risk to a certain degree, but a catastrophic safety incident is a real problem for us, being where we are. Essentially it's like being on Antarctica, where we're going. That's the first issue.
On a daily basis on board the boat, for the guys who, they're all fit and well of course, they run a 12 hour shift, seven days a week for six weeks, which means they're running an 84 hour week, 84 hours a week they're working, but in reality it's much worse than that, because you don't go home at night. You go back to your bunk. It's rough where we are, it's terribly rough, so you don't sleep particularly well, so fatigue is one of our biggest issues offshore.
To describe Fugro Discovery, which is the vessel we're using for the search, the deep tow, we're using a vessel called Fugro Discovery. She's a Norwegian-built vessel, she's 70 metres in length and she's ice-class, so she can withstand sailing through 30 centimetres of ice. She is extremely good for sea-keeping, which is why she's a perfect choice for this, we're going to a very remote region. We've used the boat for several years in the North Sea, so she's perfect for this kind of operation.
So if I was to describe how we actually conduct the survey, the vessel sails the lines around the search pattern, we tow the equipment behind the vessel, so ‘Dragon’ which is the deep tow is deployed off the stern of the vessel. It's towed using an armoured fibre-optic cable. It's armoured for the strength—fibre-optics are about as thin as a human hair, so they're extremely good at transferring data, that's what the internet's driven on. Of course, they're not very strong, because they're made of glass, so they're actually armoured and they have a breaking strain of about 15 tonnes, so we can use that to actually tow the vehicle through the water. The cable is 10,000 metres long, 10 kilometres, it's an extremely long cable, it's towed about 100 metres off the bottom, all the way, so it follows the terrain, about 100 metres elevation off the bottom and as we survey along it scans the seafloor searching for the debris field. And we literally run lines up and down, some people call it mowing the grass, because it literally is like mowing the grass when we're out there. And we run up and down the search area systematically searching every square metre. We actually create images of the seafloor to a one metre resolution and as everybody knows, a 777 aircraft is significantly larger than one square metre. So there's very little chance of us flying over it and not finding the aircraft, so the acid test people say, will you find it, the answer is, if it's in the area we're searching, we will find it.