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US Company Set to Resume Search for Lost Malaysian Airliner

FILE - In this photo released Aug. 7, 2015, by the French Army Communications audiovisual office, a crew member looks out of an airplane taking part in the search for wreckage from missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 off the coasts of the French island of La Reunion.

A U.S. sea exploration company has dispatched a vessel to resume the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which disappeared in March 2014 with 239 people on board while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

The aircraft, which changed direction suddenly over the South China Sea and ceased radio contact, is at the heart of one of modern aviation's greatest mysteries. It was last spotted by radar near the northern tip of Sumatra and may have crashed in an area about 1,500 kilometers west of Australia, according to information from a communications satellite.

The exploration company, Ocean Infinity, said Wednesday that one its ships was headed to the search area. It also said it expected the Malaysian government to award a contract to resume the search in the coming days.

Malaysian authorities have said they have been negotiating with Ocean Infinity since October to finalize a contract that will pay the company only if it finds the plane.

"We are in the final stages of the decision," said Malaysian Deputy Transportation Minister Aziz Kaprawi, who said he was not aware of the vessel's movement.

The vessel departed South Africa and plans to arrive in the search area by mid-January. The ship is carrying several autonomous submarines that can search the seabed for the aircraft.

Investigators believe someone may have intentionally turned off the transponder of the Boeing 777 before redirecting it over the Indian Ocean.

Only three confirmed fragments of the aircraft have been found, all of them on shores of the Indian Ocean.