The vessel -- HMS Echo -- is a British Royal Navy coastal survey ship, currently cruising in the Indian Ocean. It is estimated that the ship will take several days before arriving in the expected area for the search operations.
"The exact role HMS Echo will play will depend on the status and the nature of the investigation by the time it arrives in that area," Xinhua quoted a Downing Street spokesperson as saying Thursday.
Launched in 2002, HMS Echo was designed to carry out a wide range of survey work, including support to submarine and amphibious operations, through the collection of oceanographic and bathymetric data, according to the Ministry of Defence.
Australian authorities said earlier Thursday that two objects, one of which was about 24 meters long, had been spotted in the southern Indian Ocean on satellite imagery, and that they might be related to the missing plane.