Hong Kong’s iconic Jumbo Floating Restaurant has capsized in the South China Sea, just days after it was towed away from the city.
The restaurant, which was almost 80 metres (260 feet) in length, was a famous Hong Kong landmark for four decades, serving Cantonese cuisine and seafood to the Queen, Tom Cruise and millions of other diners.
It also featured in several films, including the 1974 James Bond movie The Man with the Golden Gun, but was forced to close in 2020 and lay off all of its staff due to the pandemic.
Parent company Aberdeen Restaurant Enterprises said the restaurant became a financial burden to its shareholders, with millions of Hong Kong dollars spent on its inspection and maintenance even though it was not in operation.
The restaurant was towed away from the harbour last Tuesday. The company said it planned to move it to a lower-cost site where maintenance could be carried out.
But it encountered “adverse conditions” on Saturday as it was passing the Xisha Islands in the South China Sea, and water entered the vessel and it began to tip, according to Aberdeen Restaurant Enterprises.
The company said no one was injured, but that efforts to save the vessel failed and it capsized on Sunday.
“As the water depth at the scene is over 1,000 metres, (it makes it) extremely difficult to carry out salvage works,” the firm said in a statement.
It added the company "is very saddened by this accident.”
The company said that prior to its departure, the vessel had been thoroughly inspected by marine engineers and hoardings were installed, and all relevant approvals were obtained.
“The company is now getting further details of the accident from the towing company,” the statement said.
The massive floating restaurant, which was designed like a Chinese imperial palace on Aberdeen Harbour, received over 3 million guests since its establishment in 1976.
Some Hong Kong residents recalled the heyday of Jumbo Kingdom when it was set to be towed away, and expressed disappointment in seeing the restaurant go.
It was famed for its lavish banquet meals, with dishes such as roasted suckling pig, lobster and double-boiled bird’s nest, a Chinese delicacy.
Wong Chi-wah, a boat operator in Aberdeen Harbour, said that in the glory days of the Jumbo Floating Restaurant in the 1990s, flocks of Japanese tourists would visit the restaurants.
“The streets were full of parked vehicles as visitors arrived in big groups,” he said.
Encore Sin, 71, said Hong Kong was losing something unique.
“If the restaurant leaves today, there is definitely a sense of loss, not just for people who live around this area but for the whole of Hong Kong,” said Sin.
“Over the past few decades, I’ve been to many places around the world to take photographs, but where else in the world are there such floating restaurants? I don’t think there are any left.”By Rabiu Tajudeen