Hong Kong Jumbo: House owners of Jumbo Floating Restaurant backtrack on sinking claims as authorities examine

Jumbo Kingdom — a 260-foot (80 meters), three-story restaurant styled after a Chinese language imperial palace — encountered “adversarial circumstances” final weekend whereas being towed by way of the South China Sea. “Water quickly entered earlier than it started to tip,” its homeowners initially mentioned in an announcement Monday.

“The water depth on the scene is over 1,000 meters [3,300 feet], making it extraordinarily tough to hold out salvage works,” learn the assertion.

However on Thursday, going through strain from authorities to reveal the circumstances surrounding the obvious wreckage, the vessel’s proprietor, Aberdeen Restaurant Enterprises Restricted, mentioned in an announcement the vessel and its accompanying tugboat had been nonetheless in waters close to the Paracel Islands (generally known as the Xisha Islands in China).

The assertion, offered to the Hong Kong authorities, didn’t point out whether or not the vessel was nonetheless afloat, or if it had grow to be separated from its tugboat.

The obvious shift in messaging follows a request from Hong Kong’s Marine Division for the restaurant group to supply a written report into the incident as a part of an preliminary investigation.

A spokesman for Aberdeen Restaurant Enterprises Restricted informed CNN on Friday it had at all times used the time period “capsize” to explain the incident and had by no means claimed the vessel had sunk.

Requested whether or not this contradicted earlier statements, the spokesman mentioned the agency was required “to report the depth of the waters the place (the incident) befell,” and declined to reply whether or not this meant the vessel was salvageable or remained afloat.

A bird flies above the Chinese imperial-style Jumbo Floating Restaurant as it is towed out of a typhoon shelter in Hong Kong on June 14, 2022.

Historic icon

As soon as the world’s largest floating restaurant, Jumbo Kingdom shut its doorways indefinitely in 2020 because the double hit of citywide protests and the pandemic contributed to losses of greater than $13 million.

A principal Hong Kong vacationer attraction, the restaurant had offered a backdrop for quite a few motion pictures, together with “Enter the Dragon” starring Bruce Lee, and “James Bond: The Man with the Golden Gun.” It additionally hosted visiting luminaries together with Queen Elizabeth II, Jimmy Carter and Tom Cruise.

A number of proposals had been put ahead to avoid wasting the restaurant, however its excessive upkeep value had deterred potential traders, with Hong Kong Chief Government Carrie Lam additionally ruling out a possible authorities bailout to avoid wasting the attraction.

The boat was towed away from Hong Kong on June 14, after almost half a century moored within the metropolis’s southwest waters.

Though the homeowners initially declined to state its meant location, it was later revealed by the Marine Division that it was resulting from be taken to a shipyard in Cambodia.

Information of its sinking had been met with consternation on-line, with many Hong Kong social media customers bemoaning the inelegant finish to one of many metropolis’s most acknowledged historic icons.

Tourism lawmaker Perry Yiu Pak-leung mentioned Jumbo Kingdom’s sinking was a loss for town’s heritage.

“Hong Kong ought to take this as a lesson. The federal government, conservationists, historians and the industrial sector needs to be working collectively to guard and make good use of those [historic] websites,” he mentioned. “We stalled too lengthy.”

Hong Kong's Jumbo Floating Restaurant, an iconic but aging tourist attraction designed like a Chinese imperial palace, is towed out of Aberdeen Harbor on June 14, 2022.

Requires an investigation

Hong Kong lawmakers at the moment are calling on the federal government to launch a extra thorough investigation.

“We have to know if the tug boat firm had been concerned in any malpractice or human error at sea once they towed away the Jumbo Kingdom vessel,” mentioned Tik Chi-yuen, chairman of the Third Aspect political social gathering.

Stephen Li, a professor on the Hong Kong Polytechnic College’s Division of Logistics and Maritime Research, mentioned it was “fairly unusual” for a vessel to sink merely resulting from unhealthy climate, including that sea transport is “very protected as of late” given developments in navigation know-how.

However an investigation may take years, mentioned Li, particularly because it occurred exterior of town’s jurisdiction in worldwide waters.

The Marine Division mentioned in an announcement on Wednesday that the ship proprietor had employed an company to examine the vessel and made positive it was seaworthy earlier than being towed.

It’s not clear whether or not the vessel was insured, probably complicating any salvage operations.

Andrew Brooker, managing director of Hong Kong-based marine insurance coverage agency Latitude Brokers, mentioned it was “extremely unlikely” the vessel was insured for loss or injury.

“The marine insurance coverage market doesn’t like [to carry the risk of] 50-year-old barges being towed throughout 1,000 kilometers of open ocean in hurricane season,” he mentioned.

Brooker added that Jumbo Kingdom’s homeowners wouldn’t have been legally required to insure the vessel exterior of Hong Kong waters.

CNN’s Maggie Hiufu Wong and Jessie Yeung contributed reporting.

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