Voyage of No Return: Jumbo Floating Restaurant capsizes in South China Sea

The iconic Jumbo Floating Restaurant  capsized in the South China Sea on June 19, 2022, its parent company announced. Photo: Facebook/Jumbo Kingdom
The iconic Jumbo Floating Restaurant capsized in the South China Sea on June 19, 2022, its parent company announced. Photo: Facebook/Jumbo Kingdom

The iconic Jumbo Floating Restaurant, which departed from Hong Kong last week for maintenance and cost-saving reasons as it waited for a new operator, capsized in the South China Sea on Sunday due to adverse weather conditions of the previous day, its parent company announced.

In a statement issued late on Monday, Aberdeen Restaurant Enterprises said the restaurant boat encountered “adverse conditions” on Saturday as it was passing the Xisha Islands, also known as the Paracel Islands, in the South China Sea, and water entered the vessel and it began to tip.

No one was injured, but efforts by the towing company to save the vessel were in vain as it capsized the next day, the statement read.

The company added that it would be extremely difficult to carry out salvage works as the water depth at the scene is over 1,000 meters.

It said it “is very saddened by this accident.”

The company added that the vessel had been thoroughly inspected by marine engineers and hoardings installed before it set sail. All necessary approvals were also obtained, it said.

The restaurant group said it is now seeking further details of the accident from the towing company.

There has been an outpouring of sadness on social media following news of its capsize.

“When I no longer have the ability to make money, even if I have a lot of [local] characteristics and a long history, I don’t deserve to be preserved. Let me rest in the sea. Goodbye and you don’t need to miss me,” wrote an illustrator, who depicted the vessel’s tragic end in picture and words.

Another netizen said: “I thought we would meet again, but now we can never meet again.”

Many internet users also doubted that the restaurant boat’s demise was indeed an accident.

Many netizens questioned the decision to tow a floating restaurant that is not built for the high seas into the open ocean.

“But if you insist on towing it [into the high seas], of course it will sink,” said an internet user.

Some internet users accused those in charge of the restaurant boat of deliberately causing it to sink so that they no longer need to bear its high maintenance costs, while avoiding criticism for scrapping the boat, which has been a key part of Hong Kong’s collective memory.

Many netizens also claimed that Aberdeen Restaurant Enterprises has been putting up a show since a month ago, when it announced the floating restaurant would leave after it failed to find an operator and amid huge financial losses.

This was followed by the sinking and toppling of its kitchen a day later.

Some pointed out it was suspicious how the company had not disclosed the location of where it would be docking at.

Aberdeen Restaurant Enterprises earlier said that it did not do so in order to avoid interruption of the maintenance process and other business activities at the new dock due to renewed media attention.

MET WARN, a ground-up meteorological organization in Hong Kong, said that according to weather data on Saturday, there were slight to moderate southerly winds near the Paracel Islands. It added that the wind and waves were mild and there was no heavy rain at that time.  

The organization estimated that besides huge winds and waves, there were other factors leading to the capsize.

The floating restaurant left the Aberdeen South Typhoon Shelter — its home of 46 years — last Tuesday.

Its parent company had said the boat would be parked outside of Hong Kong to lower costs while it waited for a new operator.

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