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Malaysia signed a deal on Wednesday to pay a US seabed exploration firm up to $50 million if it finds the missing Malaysia Airlines aircraft MH370 in a new search area in the Southern Indian ocean. Beyond that, Ocean Infinity will receive $70 million, Mr Liow said.

Ocean Infinity had dispatched a research vessel earlier this month towards the expected search area. If the debris field, cockpit voice recorder or flight recorder are discovered within the first 5,000 sq km (1930 sq mi) searched, Ocean Infinity will command a fee of $20 million, rising to $70 million if any of those items are found outside the initial 25,000 sq km area.

He said that while the deal is based on a "no cure, no fee" basis, a payment of US$70million (RM285 million) will be made if the USA firm is able to locate the debris field of the missing jumbo jet or the aircraft's black box within 90 days from the launch of the search starting mid-January.

After more than 1,000 days searching, the initial search mission was called off last January by governments in Malaysia, China and Australia without a concrete conclusion as to where or why the Boeing 777 vanished.

Missing flight MH370 disappeared with 239 people on board on March 8, 2014, while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing after diverting from its flight path.

"Ocean Infinity will undertake search operation to locate flight MH370 an an area of 25,000 square kilometre".

He said the primary mission by the U.S. exploration firm is to identify the location of the wreckage and or both of the flight recorders, namely the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) and Flight Data Recorder (FDR).

The vessel Seabed Constructor is on her way to the area with 65 crew on board, with the search due to begin in mid-January, Liow said.

The MoU was signed by Department of Civil Aviation Director-General Datuk Seri Azharuddin Abdul Rahman on behalf of the Malaysian government while Ocean Infinity, by its chief executive officer Oliver Plunkett.

Underwater wreck hunter David Mearns said the new search takes into account oceanographic models used to drastically narrow the possible locations of the crash and deploys state-of-the art underwater vehicles that will allow the company to cover far more seabed at a faster pace. There have been competing theories that the aircraft suffered mechanical failure or was intentionally flown off course.

Investigators believe MH370 headed south over the Indian Ocean for about six hours before plummeting into the water.

Several pieces of debris confirmed to have been from the missing aircraft have been found by members of the public on the African coast and islands in the Indian Ocean.