Hong Kong's Famous Floating Restaurant May or May Not Have Sunk

Jumbo Floating Restaurant in better times (Jumbo Kingdom)

Published Jun 24, 2022 9:33 PM by The Maritime Executive

The giant floating restaurant that graced Hong Kong's waterfront for decades has capsized during a tow in the South China Sea, and it may or may not have sunk to the seabed. 

Jumbo Floating Restaurant, an iconic multi-story dining establishment built upon a barge, was one of Aberdeen Harbor’s most prominent landmarks for five decades. Over the years it served more than 30 million guests, including Queen Elizabeth II, Tom Cruise, Chow Yun-fat and Gong Li. It has starred in many local and international movies, including "Enter the Dragon," "Spider-Man: The Dragon's Challenge" and Stephen Chow's comedy "God of Cookery."

The pandemic forced the restaurant to close in 2020, with severe effects on its finances, and parent company Aberdeen Restaurant Enterprises ultimately decided to tow it to a different location. 

On June 14, the Jumbo departed Hong Kong's harbor, under tow by the South Korean tug Jaewon 9. On Sunday, however, the mammoth vessel capsized after encountering rough weather off the Paracel Islands, the owner reported. 

“Despite the efforts of the towing company responsible for the trip to rescue the vessel, unfortunately it capsized on Sunday,” Aberdeen Restaurant Enterprises said in a statement. The firm reported that salvage would be "extremely difficult" because it capsized in 1,000 meters of water. The vessel was widely reported as "sunk." 

The company said that in accordance with regulations, professional marine engineers were hired to thoroughly inspect the hull and install hoardings to the vessel before its departure with the trip, obtaining all relevant approvals.

"Aberdeen Restaurant Enterprises is very saddened by this accident. The company is now getting further details of the accident from the towing company," the statement said.

Despite reports of its loss, it appears that the Jumbo Floating Restaurant may still be floating. The Hong Kong Marine Department reported Thursday that "both Jumbo and the tugboat are still in the waters off [Paracel Islands]." A representative of Aberdeen Restaurant Enterprises confirmed to Bloomberg on Friday that the vessel had capsized but was still afloat.

The operator of the tug Jaewon 9 told SCMP that any rumors of foul play in the casualty were "ridiculous," and that the accident may have occurred because of damage from heavy waves.