Hong Kong's iconic floating Jumbo restaurant sinks

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, June 22, 2022
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The Jumbo Floating Restaurant, an iconic boat of the Jumbo Kingdom franchise. [Photo/cfp.cn]

The Jumbo Floating Restaurant, a cultural icon and one of Hong Kong's most famous floating restaurants, capsized and sank on Sunday.

The Jumbo Floating Restaurant was towed away from Hong Kong to an undisclosed location on June 14 but encountered bad weather and adverse conditions on June 18 as it passed the Xisha Islands in the South China Sea. Water entered the vessel, and it began to tip, its owner Aberdeen Restaurant Enterprises Ltd., said in a statement released on Monday.

The company said no one was injured, but efforts to save the vessel failed, and it capsized on June 19. "As the water depth at the scene is over 1,000 meters, it makes it extremely difficult to carry out salvage works," it said.

"We are very saddened and feel sorry about this accident," the statement reads, adding it is inquiring for more information from the towing company about details of what happened. It said that marine engineers had been hired to inspect the floating restaurant before the trip, and "all relevant approvals" had been obtained.

Its sinking has shocked locals and tourists worldwide, and sparked mourning on China's social networks as the world's largest floating restaurant had a glorious past and acquired great cultural significance over the past 46 years. 

Located at Hong Kong's Aberdeen Typhoon Shelter, the Jumbo Floating Restaurant was a unique landmark, an internationally renowned tourist attraction, and a fine-dining establishment. It was appreciated by locals and tourists all through the years. Construction of the restaurant boat began in 1971, but just before it could open, a massive fire broke out and damaged it, killing 34 and injuring 42. Its owner Wong Lo-kat subsequently sold the restaurant to Macao tycoon Stanley Ho, who spent four years and HK$30 million on repairing the three-level, 76-meter-long restaurant, which eventually opened in October 1976, decorated in the style of an ancient Chinese imperial palace.

It hosted numerous international dignitaries and celebrities, including Queen Elizabeth II, Jimmy Carter, megastars Michael Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor, Tom Cruise, Chow Yun Fat, and Gong Li, and more than 30 million other visitors and guests.

The historic landmark also appears in numerous classic movies and even video games, such as Stephen Chow's "The God of Cookery" (1996), Jackie Chan's "The Protector" (1985), Andrew Lau and Alan Mak's "Infernal Affairs II"(2003), "Enter the Dragon" (1973) starring Bruce Lee, Hollywood movies "James Bond: The Man with the Golden Gun" (1974) and "Contagion" (2011), as well as video games "Fatal Fury 2," "Sleeping Dogs" and "Resident Evil 6."

Despite this, its heyday had passed, and since 2013, the restaurant has suffered a loss of more than HK$100 million (US$12.7 million), its operator Melco International Development said last month. Meanwhile, the boat was still costing millions of dollars in maintenance fees each year.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the hospitality and tourism industries took a significant hit. In March 2020, the restaurant announced it would be closed until further notice.

Several proposals were put forward to save the historical icon. Aberdeen Restaurant Enterprises even offered to donate the floating restaurant for free to Ocean Park Hong Kong. However, its high maintenance and operating costs deterred potential investors. Without a "white knight" buyer, the owners decided to move the Jumbo Floating Restaurant to an undisclosed location before its maritime operating license expired at the end of June while still looking for a new home and new buyer. But no one thought it was a voyage of no return.

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