A US seabed exploration company has offered to bear the financial risk of a new search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 , as victims' families urged Kuala Lumpur to approve the "win-win" private-sector proposal.
Malaysia, Australia and China suspended a nearly three-year search in the southern Indian Ocean in January, after scouring 46,000 square miles of remote seabed and failing to find any trace of the Boeing 777, which crashed on March 8 2014 with 239 people on board.
But Ocean Infinity said it remained hopeful that Malaysia would accept its offer to continue the search using a team of advanced, fast-moving deep-sea drones fitted with sonar equipment.
"The terms of the offer are confidential, but I can ... confirm that Ocean Infinity have offered to take on the economic risk of a renewed search," the company said.
"We're in a constructive dialogue with the relevant authorities and are hopeful that the offer will be accepted."
Voice370, a support group for families of the victims, said under the terms of the offer made in April, Ocean Infinity "would like to be paid a reward if and only if it finds the main debris field".
"Why hasn't Malaysia accepted this win-win offer?" the group said in a statement.
An international board of experts has concluded, based on analysis of Boeing 777 debris that drifted and washed up on western Indian Ocean beaches, that the flight most likely crashed in a 9,700 square-mile area of ocean on the northern boundary of the last search zone, far south west of Australia.
But Malaysia, Australia and China say the newly-identified area is too big to justify resuming the publicly-funded search, which has already cost £123 million.
Australia has co-ordinated the search on Malaysia's behalf because Flight 370 crashed in its search and rescue zone after flying far off course on a journey from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
Transport minister Darren Chester declined to comment on the possibility of a private search.
"Malaysia, as the state of registry for the aircraft, retains overall authority for any future search and any questions regarding possible future search efforts should be directed there," his office said.
"Australia stands ready to assist the Malaysian government in any way it can."