Hong Kong’s distinctive Jumbo Floating Restaurant led a storied life in the decades after it was established in 1976 by the smuggler turned gambling impresario Stanley Ho Hung-sun.
Il 80 metre-long restaurant, designed like a Chinese imperial palace, featured as a backdrop to films by Jackie Chan and Steven Soderbergh and hosted guests including Queen Elizabeth II and Tom Cruise before closing in 2020 as the city reeled from the Covid pandemic.
It seems that in death it has not lost the power to grab headlines. Hongkongers bid the restaurant farewell on Tuesday last week as it was towed out of Aberdeen harbour. Its owners, Aberdeen Restaurant Enterprises (ARE), did not disclose its destination, though Hong Kong’s marine department later said it was due to be taken to a shipyard in Cambodia.
Then on Monday ARE said the vessel had encountered adverse weather conditions when passing the Paracel Islands – also known as the Xisha Islands. “The water depth at the scene is over 1,000 metri, making it extremely difficult to carry out salvage works,” the company said in comments that appeared to suggest the vessel had sunk.
tuttavia, perhaps under pressure from authorities to pass on more information about the apparent wreckage, ARE said on Thursday the vessel and accompanying tugboat were still in waters near the islands, therefore reports the boat had sunk “were inaccurate”. è, according to ARE’s PR representatives on Friday, still “afloat”. Rescue work, ARE added, would be “extremely difficult” due to the depth of the water.
On Thursday night Hong Kong’s Marine Department issued a statement saying it had only learned of the incident from media reports and had immediately requested a report from the company.
Officials told local press that ARE might have breached the city’s regulations if the owner, agente, or captain did not report a sinking within 24 ore. Failure to give a reasonable explanation on time could result in a HK$10,000 (£1,040) fine.
The Guardian has contacted ARE for comment. A spokesperson told CNN on Friday that ARE had always used the term “capsize” to describe the incident and had never claimed the vessel had sunk.
Before the vessel’s departure, the company said it had been inspected by marine engineers and hoardings had been installed, and all relevant approvals had been obtained.
ARE complained last month that the business had not been profitable since 2013 and cumulative losses had exceeded HK$100m. It said the maintenance fees could cost millions every year and about a dozen businesses and organisations had declined an invitation to take the restaurant over at no charge.
A lack of maintenance caused a 30-metre kitchen barge connected to the restaurant to sink earlier this month.
Additional reporting by AFP