Huge floating restaurant towed out of Hong Kong capsizes in South China Sea

·2-min read

A floating restaurant in Hong Kong that was an iconic landmark for almost 50 years has sunk into the depths of the South China Sea.

The Jumbo Floating Restaurant capsized almost a week after the process to tow it away to an undisclosed location began, its owners said in a statement.

The massive floating restaurant became a financial burden to shareholders after it remained shut since 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, and would have required millions of dollars worth of maintenance to pass continued mandatory inspections.

Aberdeen Restaurant Enterprises said that the vessel began to tip on Saturday when it encountered “adverse conditions”. Water began to enter the vessel when it was passing the Paracel Islands, also known as Xisha Islands, in the South China Sea.

“Despite the efforts of the towing company responsible for the trip to rescue the vessel, unfortunately it capsized on Sunday.”

The company said it was “very saddened by the incident" but confirmed that no crew members were injured.

Opened in 1976 by Stanley Ho Hung-sun, a casino tycoon in Macau, the Jumbo restaurant was a tourist magnet for 48 years and served almost 30 million guests since it was established.

It suffered a major financial blow due to coronavirus pandemic (AFP via Getty)
It suffered a major financial blow due to coronavirus pandemic (AFP via Getty)

The iconic eatery that cost HK$30m (£3.1m) to the owners in the 1970s, has famously featured in several films over the years, including Jackie Chan’s 1985 feature The Protector, widely-acclaimed James Bond movie The Man With The Golden Gun and Infernal Affairs II in 2003.

It has hosted many high-profile guests, including Queen Elizabeth II and Hollywood actor Tom Cruise.

The company said it had obtained all relevant approvals before the restaurant set sail, and that it was unlikely any effort would be made to salvage the wreckage given the depth of the sea at that point.

“The water depth at the scene is over 1,000m [3,300ft], making it extremely difficult to carry out salvage works,” it said.

The restaurant in Aberdeen Harbour was designed to resemble a Chinese imperial palace. The vessel, which was almost 80m long, was famous for its Cantonese cuisine and seafood dishes.

Jumbo Floating Restaurant is towed out of a typhoon shelter in Aberdeen on 14 June 2022 (Getty)
Jumbo Floating Restaurant is towed out of a typhoon shelter in Aberdeen on 14 June 2022 (Getty)

But the coronavirus pandemic dealt a major financial blow to the company, which was forced to shut down the restaurant as well as lay off all its staff. The company said it was being moved to an undisclosed lower-cost site, where maintenance could still be conducted, when it capsized over the weekend.

The owners had decided it would not be viable to reopen the restaurant in the immediate future due to its high operating costs, after exploring a number of potential deals with investors.

Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam previously rejected suggestions that the government bail out the restaurant, despite calls from lawmakers to preserve the iconic landmark. Ms Lam said the government had no plans to invest taxpayers’ money into the restaurant as the government was “not good” at running such premises.

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