Hong Kong's enormous floating restaurant is now 3,300 feet below the South China Sea

Incident attributed to adverse weather. No crew was onboard.
Ameya Paleja
The iconic restaurant in Hong Kong during its golden daysSource: Wikimedia Commons

The Jumbo Kingdom, Hong Kong's iconic floating restaurant that served customers for over 44 years at the city's Aberdeen Harbour, has capsized while heading towards an unknown destination, South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported

A three-story vessel, Jumbo Kingdom was established in 1976 after a purse of HK$30 million (US$3.82 million) was spent to design and build it. With an area of 45,000 square feet (4,500 sq m) and a seating capacity for 2,300 diners, Jumbo Kingdom held the honor of the world's largest restaurant at one time, CNN reported

The famous restaurant consisted of a large boat which was 260 feet (80 m) long, a smaller but older boat that hosted a sister restaurant, a barge for seafood tanks, a separate boat that served as the kitchen, and eight smaller boats that ferried visitors from nearby piers. The iconic restaurant served meals to celebrities like Queen Elizabeth II, Jimmy Carter, and Tom Cruise while also being featured in many popular movies since Jackie Chan's The Protector in 1985. 

Damaged by the pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic hit the tourism industry hard in Hong Kong, and the restaurant that had closed doors in early 2020 never opened again, SCMP reported. The restaurant's owners, Aberdeen Restaurant Enterprises, reported an annual loss in excess of HK$100 million (US$12.7 million) since the pandemic. Although shut down, the restaurant was still undergoing annual inspections, repairs, and maintenance to meet the licensing requirements, which was costing the owners millions of dollars annually. Therefore, the company appealed to the local government for financial assistance to keep the restaurant at the harbor. 

According to the SCMP, the government in Hong Kong has ambitious plans to reinvigorate trade and tourism in the area but refuses to get involved in the business of operating a restaurant. With no financial aid, the restaurant's owners decided last month to tow the boat away from Hong Kong waters to reduce their expenditures, although it did not specify where. 

Resting at the bottom of the sea

The restaurant's owners engaged a towing service and carried out necessary inspections and installed hoardings on the vessel before the restaurant departed the harbor on June 14 after being there for decades. 

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Prior to the departure, the kitchen boat reported a hull breach and had to be left behind, The Straits Times reported. However, the restaurant boat also faced adverse weather as it was passing the Xisha Islands on Saturday, 18th of June. Also known as the Paracel Islands, the location is nearly 372 nautical miles (690 km) from the point of origin, SCMP reported. 

At this point, water started entering the vessel, and the boat began to tip. Despite efforts of the towing company to rescue it, the restaurant capsized the following day.No members of the crew were present on the ship that was being towed to an undisclosed location in Southeast Asia.

The water depth at the site is 3,300 feet (1,000 m), and the restaurant owners aren't very confident that salvage works can be taken up and are seeking more details from the towing company to decide its next course of action, SCMP said in its report. 

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