Founded in 1976 by smuggler turned gambling impresario Stanley Ho Hung-sun, Hong Kong’s distinctive Jumbo Floating Restaurant has lived a busy life. Designed like a Chinese imperial palace, the 80-metre-long restaurant has served as a backdrop for films by Jackie Chan and Steven Soderbergh and hosted guests including Queen Elizabeth II and Tom Cruise before closing in 2020 when the city was hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. pandemic has been shaken.
It seems that in death it has not lost its power to make headlines. Hong Kongers bid farewell to the restaurant last week when it was towed out of Aberdeen Harbour. Its owner, Aberdeen Restaurant Enterprises (ARE), did not disclose its destination, but the Hong Kong Navy Authority later said it was to be taken to a shipyard in Cambodia.
Then ARE said on Monday the ship encountered adverse weather conditions while passing the Paracel Islands, also known as Xisha Islands. “The water depth at the scene is over 1,000 meters, making salvage operations extremely difficult to conduct,” the company said in comments that suggested the ship had sunk.
Possibly under pressure from authorities to share more information about the apparent wreck, ARE said Thursday the vessel and accompanying tugboat are still in waters near the islands, and as a result reports that the boat has sunk, “inaccurate”. ARE PR officials said on Friday that it was still afloat but that the rescue work was “extremely difficult” due to the depth of the water.
On Thursday evening, the Hong Kong Navy Ministry issued a statement saying it had only learned about the incident from media reports and immediately requested a report from the company.
Officials told local press that if the owner, agent or captain failed to report a sinking within 24 hours, ARE may have violated city regulations. Failure to provide a reasonable explanation in a timely manner may result in a fine of HK$10,000 (£1,040).
The Guardian has reached out to ARE for comment. A spokesman told CNN on Friday that ARE always used the term “capsize” to describe the incident and never claimed the ship sank.
According to the company, before the ship departed, it was inspected by ship engineers, construction fences were installed and all relevant permits were obtained.
ARE complained last month that the business had not been profitable since 2013 and cumulative losses had exceeded HK$100 million. It said maintenance fees could cost millions each year, and about a dozen companies and organizations declined an invitation to take over the restaurant for free.
Lack of maintenance led to a 100-foot (30-meter) kitchen barge connected to the restaurant sinking earlier this month.
Additional coverage from AFP