Hong Kong’s famous Jumbo floating restaurant has capsized in the South China Sea, just days after being towed away from its home of 46 years in Aberdeen Typhoon Shelter.
On Monday, the owners released a statement saying that the restaurant had encountered “adverse weather conditions” when passing the disputed Paracel Islands (also known as the Xisha Islands), en route to an undisclosed location.
“Until Saturday afternoon, when passing Xisha Islands in the South China Sea, the vessel encountered adverse conditions which water soon entered before it began to tip,” said Aberdeen Restaurant Enterprises, the company that owns and operates the restaurant’s parent company, Jumbo Kingdom. “Despite the efforts of the towing company responsible for the trip to rescue the vessel, unfortunately it capsized on Sunday… The water depth at the scene is over 1,000 metres, making it extremely difficult to carry out salvage works.”
The firm says that it is seeking more information from the towing agency. The company adds it was “very saddened by this accident” and confirmed no injuries have been reported.
Jumbo Kingdom had reportedly suffered accumulated deficits of over HK$100 million since 2013, and had failed to secure a new operator for the premises after Covid restrictions saw the restaurant close in 2020 and all staff were laid off.
The sprawling 4,200-square-metre floating restaurant was opened by late Macau casino tycoon Stanley Ho in 1976. Designed to emulate a Chinese imperial palace in Aberdeen Harbour, the venue has long been cherished as an iconic city landmark. Decorated in green and red, the restaurant had a gigantic neon sign reading “foon ying gwong lam,” Chinese for “welcome.”
The restaurant has fed Cantonese seafood to guests including Queen Elizabeth II, Tom Cruise and Chow Yun Fat, according to its website. In total, an estimated 30 million visitors have passed through its doors since 1976.
Before the news broke of the sinking, there had been reports in local media that the Jumbo fleet was on its way to Southeast Asia to undergo maintenance, and potentially re-open in a new location. The company had not disclosed further details on these reports, allegedly to avoid ‘disturbance’ at the new site.
In an ominous foreshadowing of things to come, a 30-metre kitchen barge connected to Jumbo capsized on June 1, just two days after Jumbo Kingdom announced its plans to remove the restaurant from Hong Kong. The incident prompted calls from lawmakers for the government to step in and save the landmark, calling it “a collective memory for Hongkongers.”
However, chief executive Carrie Lam stated last month the government would not intervene if stakeholders couldn’t find a solution for the proposed revitalisation project.
In the end, crowds of Hongkongers gathered to bid a final farewell to the restaurant last Tuesday, under a grey and gloomy sky.
Before the vessel’s departure last week, Aberdeen Restaurant Enterprises said Jumbo had been inspected by marine engineers and all relevant approvals had been obtained.
— surrealhk® (@surrealhk_) June 14, 2022
On June 14, local art page SurrealHK published an image showing Jumbo sinking to the bottom of the sea, shortly after the restaurant was removed from Aberdeen.