A sea search - the largest in aviation history - for the Malaysia Airlines jet that disappeared in March 2014 with 239 people, was called off in January last year but looks set to resume soon.

A waiter walks past a mural of flight MH370 in Shah Alam outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in this February 23, 2016 file photo.
A waiter walks past a mural of flight MH370 in Shah Alam outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in this February 23, 2016 file photo. (AP)

A US-based company has dispatched Norwegian research vessel into the Indian Ocean in hopes of resuming the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, even though the company doesn't have a contract to do the job.

The search vessel named Seabed Constructor left the South African port of Durban on Tuesday as part of the Ocean Infinity company's plan to look for debris after arriving in the search area by mid-January. 

The vessel is carrying several autonomous submarines which can be launched from the ship to scour the seabed for the jet.

Ocean Infinity was taking advantage of favorable weather to move the vessel "towards the vicinity of the possible search zone," the company said in a statement.

"This is designed to save time should the contract award be forthcoming, as hoped," it said. "We will confirm as and when the contract is awarded and the search can resume."

The Malaysia Airlines jet disappeared in March 2014 with 239 people - mostly from China - on board en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing after diverting from its flight path.

No sign of the plane was found in a 120,000 square kilometre search zone selected by satellite analysis of the jet's likely trajectory.

The sea search - the largest in aviation history - was called off in January last year but looks set to resume soon.

The firm wants to start the hunt, which will be on a "no find, no fee" basis, during a period of good weather expected in January and February.

Malaysia's Deputy Transport Minister Aziz Kaprawi confirmed negotiations with Ocean Infinity were in the final stages: "They know we are very serious in taking their offer."

Ocean Infinity was one of three companies which had bid to resume the hunt.

"Ocean Infinity is hopeful of receiving the final contract award for the resumption of the search for MH370 over the coming days," a company spokesman told Reuters in an emailed statement.

Australia's national science body CSIRO released a report in April suggesting the doomed plane was "most likely" north of the former search zone in an area of approximately 25,000 square kilometres.

Only three confirmed fragments of MH370 have been found, all of them on western Indian Ocean shores, including a two-metre wing part known as a flaperon.

Source: AFP