Hong Kong’s iconic Jumbo Floating Restaurant sank while being towed away, but speculations arise on how it happened. Here’s the story.

Reminiscent of the splendor and colorful interiors of a Chinese palace, the Jumbo Floating Restaurant is an icon in its own right. A famed Hong Kong tourist attraction that has made an appearance in several films, including Steven Soderbergh’s “Contagion” (about a deadly global pandemic), the vessel sadly met its demise in the South China Sea on Sunday, June 19, 2022.

According to its parent company, Aberdeen Restaurant Enterprises, the 260-foot, three-story eatery capsized and sank near the Parcel (or Xisha in Chinese) Islands after it “encountered adverse conditions” and began to take on water. “The water depth at the scene is over 1,000 meters, making it extremely difficult to carry out salvage works,” it said, adding that no workers were injured.

However, speculations arose about the fate of Hong Kong’s Jumbo Floating Restaurant just this Friday after its owner stirred confusion over whether the financially struggling tourist attraction actually sank while being towed away.

Jumbo Floating Restaurant was towed out of Aberdeen Harbor in Hong Kong last week. Photo Credits: Peter Parks/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Financial Woes

Last month, ahead of its license expiration in June, Jumbo Floating Restaurant announced that it would be leaving Hong Kong and awaiting a new operator at an undisclosed location. Thus, the restaurant set off shortly before noon last Tuesday from the southern Hong Kong Island typhoon shelter, where it sat for nearly half a century.

Opened in 1976 by the late casino tycoon Stanley Ho, Jumbo Floating Restaurant embodied the height of luxury in its glory days. Reportedly, it cost more than HK$30 million (around PHP 210,054,840) to build.

But after almost a decade of financial woes, the tourist attraction closed in March 2020—citing the COVID-19 pandemic as the final nail to its coffin. In fact, its operator Melco International Development said last month that the business has not been profitable since 2013 and has been accumulating losses exceeding HK$100 million (around PHP 700,188,141.20) since then.

What’s more, Melco added that it still costs millions in maintenance fees every year, and around a dozen businesses and organizations had declined an invitation to take it over—even at no charge.

The design of this vessel mirrors the splendor of a Chinese imperial palace. Photo Credits: Jumbo Kingdom Website
Mouthwatering dishes are served in Jumbo Floating Restaurant. Photo Credits: Jumbo Kingdom Website

Did it Sink or Capsize?

Last Thursday night, Hong Kong’s Marine Department issued a statement, saying that it had just learned of the incident from media reports, thus, requesting for the company to submit a report. Said report was delivered on Thursday, which stated that the restaurant had capsized, and that “at present, both Jumbo and the tugboat are still in the waters off Xisha islands.”

Hours later, a spokesman of the restaurant contacted an AFP journalist, who said that the company had always used the word “capsized,” not “sank.” When asked directly if the boat had sunk, he reiterated that the statement used the word “capsized.” What’s more, it did not explain why it had referred to the depth of the water when mentioning salvage.

A similar conversation was reported by The South China Morning Post, wherein a spokeswoman for the company insisted that the boat had “capsized,” not “sank.” Likewise, she refused to clarify whether it was still afloat. The newspaper further added that it has been informed by the Marine Department that the company might have breached local regulations if it had not notified the authorities of a sinking incident within 24 hours.

However, widespread reports from both local and international media that Jumbo had sunk were not contradicted by the company. In fact, it previously said that marine engineers have been hired to inspect the floating restaurant and install hoardings on the vessel before the trip, and that “all relevant approvals” have been obtained.


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