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Jumbo salvage may cost millions: expert

2022-06-21 HKT 16:33
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  • Jumbo salvage may cost millions: expert
A maritime studies scholar said he believes any attempt to salvage the Jumbo Floating Restaurant could cost millions of dollars, a day after news broke that the historic vessel had capsized.

In a statement on Monday night, Jumbo’s parent company, Aberdeen Restaurant Enterprises, said the vessel capsized after encountering stormy weather near the disputed Xisha Islands over the weekend.

The company said Jumbo was originally bound for an undisclosed storage location in Southeast Asia, adding that any recovery work would be extremely difficult given the water depth of over 1,000 metres.

Stephen Li, a professor of practice from Polytechnic University's Department of Logistics and Maritime Studies, said he believes any attempt to salvage the vessel could come with a seven-digit price tag given the equipment and manpower needed.

"If the water is deep, then the cost of salvage will be very much, so they [the owner] will consider...if the salvage amount is too much, then they will not do it because it's not worth to rescue a vessel which you spend too much money on," Li said.

"This is the most unfortunate accident.”

Li said it is unclear if the mariners and navigators on board the tow ship at the time had any knowledge of the bad weather to come.

"If the navigators have received the weather forecast for bad weather, then they can deviate the course to navigate away from the bad area, but I don't know if they received the bad reports or there are bad weather reports in the vicinity, these are things that we do not know for the time being," he explained.

The expert said while he expects the insurer of the floating restaurant to thoroughly investigate the incident, whether the government will also carry out its own probe will depend on the vessel's license and registration.

The chairman of the Hong Kong Fishermen Consortium, Cheung Siu-keung, said a giant structure like Jumbo was never meant for long voyages in the open sea.

He also pointed out that the incident area is frequented by monsoons, making the waters there hard to navigate even on a calm day.

The 46-year-old floating restaurant was once a prominent tourist spot off the waters of Aberdeen, but high maintenance costs and dwindling business forced it to close in March 2020.

The iconic vessel was then donated to Ocean Park, but the amusement park later turned down the offer citing its failure to find an operator.

Southern district councillor Jonathan Leung described the loss of Jumbo as "a huge disappointment" and a blow to government plans to attract people to the area.

He called on the government to preserve the memory of the floating restaurant.

"It's not just an attraction, it's a historic item in Hong Kong, and I believe we can have saved not just the Jumbo, not just the ship, maybe some stories we can keep for our next generation to let them know that the interesting restaurant had existed in Hong Kong,” Leung said.

Political party Third Side, meanwhile, called the incident "shocking" and "baffling".

It accused the government and Ocean Park of indirectly causing the capsizal of "Hong Kong people's collective memory."