Hong Kong’s Jumbo Mystery Deepens as Restaurant May Be Afloat

(Bloomberg) -- Hong Kong’s famed Jumbo Floating Restaurant may still be afloat after all.

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The imperial palace-shaped vessel capsized but didn’t sink, a representative for the vessel’s owner, Aberdeen Restaurant Enterprises Ltd., said Friday. Days earlier, the company announced that adverse weather caused the restaurant to capsize and that recovery efforts were “extremely difficult” because of water depths of 1,000 meters (3,280 feet). The representative declined to comment further on the situation, including what will happen next.

Both Jumbo and its accompanying tugboat were still in the waters off Xisha Islands — also known as Paracel Islands — in the South China Sea, Hong Kong’s Marine Department said late Thursday.

The revelation became the latest twist in the saga involving the unprofitable landmark, which had been a familiar sight in Aberdeen harbor in southern Hong Kong for four decades. Its owner, a unit of Melco Resorts & Entertainment Ltd., towed away the vessel on June 14 after attempts to donate the restaurant to an amusement park collapsed. The company wouldn’t disclose where it was headed but the SCMP reported Jumbo was being towed to Cambodia.

Opened by Macau casino mogul Stanley Ho in 1976, Jumbo drew visitors including Queen Elizabeth II and Tom Cruise during its heyday, while featuring in a number of films, according to the restaurant’s website.

But its attraction waned in recent years, and the pandemic forced it to suspend operations. The restaurant had accumulated losses of HK$100 million ($12.7 million) since 2013, its owner said last month.

Then the owner of the ship issued a statement earlier this week that despite efforts to rescue the vessel, Jumbo had capsized on Sunday.

News of the tragic fate of such a well-known attraction, even one that was losing money, tapped into the city’s downbeat mood. Expats and locals alike are leaving in droves as seemingly endless travel restrictions and Beijing’s tightened grip undermine Hong Kong’s future as an international financial center. The lack of visitors has affected companies reliant on tourism spending, with another icon — the Star Ferry — also warning of financial trouble.

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