The tugboat that towed Jumbo Floating Restaurant out of Hong Kong and to its untimely demise encountered an incident last December, when a vessel it was hauling capsized in bad weather.

tow boat jaewon 9 jumbo
JAEWON 9, the tugboat that towed Jumbo Floating Restaurant out of Hong Kong. Photo: MarineTraffic.

The Marine Department confirmed with HKFP that the iconic restaurant was towed by JAEWON 9, a ship sailing under the South Korean flag.

On December 13, a vessel JAEWON 9 was taking from Hong Kong to South Korea sank after the towing line connecting the two broke off. With “refloating attempts” affected by poor weather, the vessel was eventually “recognised as total loss,” global ship database FleetMon said.

JAEWON 9 left the site of the accident two days later, leaving the wreckage to be cleared by a salvage company. According to FleetMon, the vessel – Dong Ji No. 2 – is “reported to be decommissioned, scrapped or lost.”

Jumbo Floating Restaurant
Jumbo Floating Restaurant on June 14, 2022. Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.

The ship’s history has come to light amid confirmation that Jumbo Floating Restaurant, which was towed out of Hong Kong last Tuesday, sunk in the South China Sea during adverse weather conditions over the weekend.

“Despite the efforts of the towing company responsible for the trip to rescue the vessel, unfortunately it capsized on Sunday,” a statement from Jumbo Floating Restaurant’s parent company Aberdeen Restaurant Enterprises said on Monday night.

The company added that it was too difficult to carry out salvage works since the water depth exceeded 1,000 metres.

See also: Memes, mourning and metaphors as Hong Kong reacts to demise of iconic Jumbo Floating Restaurant

According to records from the Marine Department, JAEWON 9 was operating under S5 Asia Limited, a shipping company with an office in Hong Kong.

jaewon 9
JAEWON 9 set off from the Chinese city of Zhoushan on June 8. The most recent available data shows it near the Xisha Islands last Saturday. Photo: Screenshot, via MarineTraffic.

HKFP has asked S5 Asia Limited and Aberdeen Restaurant Enterprises about whether it was aware of the December accident.

Jumbo Floating Restaurant was a feature of Aberdeen Harbour since 1976. The popular tourist attraction, where a number of Hong Kong and international movies were shot, suffered accumulated deficits of more than HK$100 million since 2013. The restaurant ceased operating in 2020 due to Covid-19.

It was towed out of Hong Kong last Tuesday after Aberdeen Restaurant Enterprises said it had been unable to find an operator to take over.

Questions remain

According to maritime analytics provider MarineTraffic, JAEWON 9 was scheduled to arrive in Sihanoukville, a port in Cambodia, on the coming Monday.

Sihanoukville Cambodia
The Cambodian port city of Sihanoukville, where JAEWON 9 – and the Jumbo Floating Restaurant – was bound for. Photo: Wikicommons.

Aberdeen Restaurant Enterprises said in its Monday statement that it was “getting further details of the accident from the towing company.” It has not responded to multiple requests for comment from HKFP and other local media outlets.

The Marine Department said it was not aware that the restaurant had capsized until the Aberdeen Restaurant Enterprises made the announcement. The department has requested a report into what happened to the eatery.

Data from maritime analytics provider MarineTraffic showed that JAEWON 9 was parked in Zhoushan – home to an archipelago of islands off the eastern city of Ningbo- until June 8, when it began its journey to Hong Kong.

jaewon 9 jumbo
JAEWON 9 seen sailing near Lamma Island on June 14, 2022. Photo: Screenshot, via MarineTraffic.

According to HK01, two tugboats operated by Yun Lee Marine Group Holdings towed Jumbo Floating Restaurant out of the Aberdeen Harbour last Tuesday before transferring the vessel to JAEWON 9 to haul it out to the open sea.

Data from maritime analytics provider MarineTraffic showed JAEWON 9 near Lamma Island last Tuesday.

JAEWON 9 Jumbo Floating Restaurant capsize sink MarineTraffic
A detail of where the Jumbo Floating Restaurant is believed to have capsized. Photo: Screenshot, via MarineTraffic.

JAEWON 9 was west of the Xisha Islands just before 9 pm last Saturday, according to the most recent available data. It appeared to U-turn around the time that the Jumbo Floating Restaurant is believed to have sunk.

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Hillary has an interest in social issues and politics. Previously, she reported on Asia broadly - including on Hong Kong's 2019 protests - for TIME Magazine and covered local news at Coconuts Hong Kong.