This post updates the saga of Jumbo Floating Restaurant that was originally said to have sunk in the South China Sea on or about June 19, 2022 while being towed to a port in Cambodia. About one week later, Jumbo’s owner, Aberdeen Restaurant Enterprises, issued a statement saying that the restaurant had capsized but not sunk. The latest report in this saga comes from mainland Chinese maritime authorities who are making new claims about Jumbo’s fate.
Jumbo Floating Restaurant was an icon synonymous with Hong Kong since it’s opening in 1976 under ownership of Macau gambling magnate Stanly Ho. At 250 feet (76 meters) long it could accommodate over 2,000 customers and was designed to resemble a Ming Dynasty imperial palace. Jumbo served Cantonese cuisine to millions of customers including Queen Elizabeth II and other celebrities from its mooring in the safety of Hong Kong’s Aberdeen Harbor.
The latest update comes from an official with the Hainan Maritime Safety Administration who says that the floating restaurant was capsized and stuck on a reef near the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea. Aberdeen Restaurant Enterprises closed Jumbo in March 2020 because of the Covid pandemic. The high cost of maintaining it in Hong Kong prompted the ill-fated operation to tow Jumbo to a shipyard in Cambodia presumably where it could be stored until the restaurant could be reactivated.
It is a sad story. I knew of Jumbo’s reputation and had seen it while touring Aberdeen Harbor. I’d never eaten there. If somehow Jumbo can be returned to operation, this saga will only enhance its status and appeal. I wouldn’t pass the next opportunity to dine there where ever that might be. A slight name change would be appropriate: “The Unsinkable Jumbo Floating Restaurant.” Jumbo would be even more popular than it was before.
The brief statement from the mainland Chinese authorities helps although it is hard to believe that a floating restaurant could last very long upside down on a reef in the middle of the South China Sea. It would seem that wind and wave action would soon break apart the restaurant’s superstructure which was not designed to be upside down in the middle of the ocean.
It also seems strange that the route for the towing operation would have taken it over a shallow reef. A photo or video could resolve a lot of questions. Given the usual lack of transparency of the mainland Chinese authorities, we may never know what actually happened.
The organizers of what appears to be Jumbo’s fateful voyage should have prayed to Thien Hau Thanh Mau the deity worshipped by people in southern China for protection at sea. Perhaps they did but even she was unable to save Jumbo from all of the mistakes of the owner and towing company. If it is stuck on a reef, Jumbo’s wreck could make an interesting dive site.