Debris has washed up on a West Australian beach and is being examined to determine whether it’s related to missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) is studying photographs of the material which washed ashore 10 kilometres east of Augusta, around 300km south of Perth.
The items are being held by Busselton police, who are awaiting instructions from the ATSB and Joint Agency Co-ordination Centre (JACC) in Perth.
The ATSB has provided the photographs to the Malaysian investigation team.
Police said items of interest had been previously reported after washing up on a WA beach and had turned out to be unrelated to MH370, so it was important not to jump to conclusions.
Sonar tracking for wreckage
A sonar tracking system similar to that used to find the Titanic almost 30 years ago may be deployed in the hunt for MH370 with a mini-submarine involved in the search so far failing to discover any trace of the plane.
The autonomous underwater vehicle Bluefin-21 has scoured more than 80 per cent of the search area, which on Wednesday was centred about 855km northwest of Perth, with no sign of the missing Boeing Boeing 777 that disappeared on March 8 with 239 people aboard.
Authorities in Australia on Wednesday said the area where the search is focused remains the best lead, but they may soon deploy more powerful towed side-scan sonar equipment, similar to that which found the Titanic in 3.8km-deep waters in the Atlantic Ocean in 1985.
The same system was used to find HMAS Sydney in 2008, which was located north of the MH370 search area.
The development came as Prime Minister Tony Abbott insisted the search would continue while there was a reasonable hope of finding something.
“Australia will not rest until we have done everything we humanly can to get to the bottom of this mystery,” he told reporters in Canberra.
The Bluefin-21 is focusing on a circular area with a radius of 10km where the second acoustic signal was picked up by a towed pinger locator on April 8. Acoustic signals were also picked up in the vicinity on April 5.
Defence Minister David Johnston on Wednesday said that if the current search turned up nothing, the operation would move to the next phase, using more advanced sonar technology.
The side-scan sonar would be able to go deeper than the Bluefin-21, which loses some effectiveness beyond 4500 metres.
Senator Johnston said Australia was consulting with Malaysia, China and the United States on the next phase of the search.
While the Bluefin 21 had less than one-fifth of the seabed search area to complete, Senator Johnston estimated its mission would take another two weeks.
The Joint Agency Co-ordination Centre (JACC), led by former Australian Defence Force chief Angus Houston, said the zone where the search was focused remained the best lead.
“It is important this lead is pursued to its completion so we can either confirm or discount the focused underwater area as the final resting place of MH370. This is clearly of great importance to the families of those on board,” JACC told AAP.
Mr Houston recently said that alternatives to the Bluefin-21, including devices that can go deeper, were “being looked at”, but gave no specifics.
One of the US Navy’s Orion-towed search systems is available and can send back real-time data, unlike the Bluefin-21.
And some search experts say a REMUS 6000 autonomous underwater vehicle, used to find Air France flight 447 after it went down in 2009, would be more suitable.
The aerial search for floating debris was suspended on Wednesday for the second straight day due to poor weather associated with an ex-tropical cyclone.