Safety Administration: Boat is in full “bottom up” position resting on undersea reefs

The Jumbo seafood boat, which capsized in the waters near the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea while being towed out of Hong Kong in June 2022, had its current status updated by mainland Hainan Maritime Safety Administration, a unit of the Sansha Maritime Safety Administration.

Hainan Maritime Safety Administration told “WeMedia01” of Hong Kong on August 3 that the hull of the seafood boat had overturned and was lying in a “bottom-up” position resting on the reefs of the seabed with its superstructure disintegrated. It also stated that a part of the bottom of the boat would still stick out of the water at low tide.

The South Korean tugboat company tasked with towing the Jumbo Seafood boat said earlier that salvaging the boat was “completely impossible” due to insurance issues. A person familiar with the matter analysed that the accident was mainly due to the unstable weather and revealed that the shipowner and insurance company planned to arrange divers to go underwater, pierce through all other buoyancy chambers, scuttling the boat, and let it sink to the sea bottom.

When the Hainan Maritime Safety Administration responded to the “scuttling” of the seafood boat, it emphasised that it would urge the tugboat company to perform its duty of salvage and removal as soon as possible in accordance with the law.

The Jumbo Seafood Restaurant, with a history of half a century in operation, was a landmark and tourist attraction in the southern district of Hong Kong. However, it was closed during the pandemic for more than two years, and no new operators could be found during that hardship period. On June 14, with the public not knowing its next destination, it was towed away by a tugboat from the Aberdeen Typhoon Shelter.

On the evening of June 18, while being towed by the ocean-going tugboat “JAEWON 9,” the seafood boat capsized in the waters near the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea.

However, its parent company, Aberdeen Catering Group, only announced the incident on June 20, saying that the seafood boat encountered strong wind and waves on June 18, and tilted over in the water on June 19.

At that time, the company said that because the water at the site was more than 1,000 meters deep, “the proposed salvage project will be very difficult to carry out.”

On the evening of June 21, two days later, the group claimed that the seafood boat capsized, and the Hong Kong Marine Department confirmed for the first time that Cambodia was its intended destination.

The director of the tugboat company told i-Cable on June 24 more details of the incident. He said that the seafood boat had eight buoyancy chambers. One on the port bow was hit and damaged by seawater and then pressed against another buoyancy chamber causing that to fail also.

With two buoyancy chambers damaged, the vessel tilted to the port side, even though the remaining six buoyancy chambers remained intact. With a height of 28 meters (92 feet), 79 meters (259 feet) in length, and 25 meters (82 feet) in width, the high centre of gravity made it vulnerable to capsizing.

After turning “bottom up,” it was said that the hull would still be visible during low tide.

Ying Cheung

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