Fri, June 24, 2022
The mystery over the fate of Hong Kong’s Jumbo floating restaurant deepened on Friday after its owner sparked confusion over whether the financially-troubled tourist attraction actually sank while being towed out of town last week .
On Monday, Aberdeen Restaurant Enterprises released a statement saying the vessel capsized on Sunday near the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea after “encountering adverse conditions” and began taking on water.
“The water depth at the scene is more than 1,000 meters, which makes it extremely difficult to carry out rescue work,” he added.
On Thursday evening, the Hong Kong Navy Department released a statement saying it only learned of the incident from the media and immediately requested a report from the company.
The department said the report was delivered on Thursday, saying the restaurant capsized but “at present, Jumbo and the tugboat are still in the waters off the Xisha Islands,” using the Chinese name of the Paracels.
A few hours later, an AFP reporter was contacted by a spokesperson representing the restaurant who said the company had always used the word “capsized” and not “sunk”.
When asked directly if the boat sank, he repeated that the statement said “capsized” and did not explain why he referred to the depth of the water when mentioning the rescue.
The South China Morning Post reported a similar conversation with a company spokeswoman, in which they insisted the boat had ‘capsized’, not ‘sunk’, but declined to elaborate on whether it was. always afloat.
The newspaper said the Navy Department told it the company could have violated local regulations if it did not notify authorities of a sinking within 24 hours.
Widespread reports in local and international media earlier this week that Jumbo had sunk have not been contradicted by the company.
AFP has requested an official statement from Aberdeen Restaurant Enterprises on Jumbo’s status, along with a detailed explanation of what happened.
The company previously said marine engineers had been hired to inspect the floating restaurant and install hoarding on the vessel ahead of the voyage, and that “all relevant approvals” had been obtained.
The tourist attraction closed in March 2020, citing the Covid-19 pandemic as the final straw after nearly a decade of financial difficulties.
Operator Melco International Development said last month that the business had not been profitable since 2013 and that cumulative losses had exceeded HK$100 million ($12.7 million).
It still cost millions in maintenance fees each year and a dozen companies and organizations had declined an invitation to take it up at no cost, Melco added.
It announced last month that before its license expires in June, Jumbo would leave Hong Kong and wait for a new operator at an undisclosed location.
The restaurant left shortly before noon last Tuesday from the typhoon shelter in southern Hong Kong Island where it had sat for nearly half a century.
Opened in 1976 by the late casino tycoon Stanley Ho, in its heyday it epitomized the pinnacle of luxury, reportedly costing over HK$30 million to build.
Designed like a Chinese imperial palace and once considered a must-see landmark, the restaurant has drawn visitors from Queen Elizabeth II to Tom Cruise.
He has also appeared in several films, including that of Steven Soderbergh Contagionabout a deadly global pandemic.