Famous fireboat makes its final journey

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 10 March, 2006, 12:00am

A FAMOUS Hong Kong icon, the fireboat Alexander Grantham, makes its final journey today.

The decommissioned vessel will be towed from the shipyard at Tsing Yi to the waterfront at Quarry Bay Park this morning, a three-hour mission. A giant 900-tonne crane will then lift it on to dry land to become a marine-firefighting museum.

The operation is expected to be finished by 5.30pm, when the SAR flag will be hoisted.

'It is a very complicated operation and unprecedented in Hong Kong,' said Chan Shing-wai, the chief curator of the Central Conservation Section, Leisure and Cultural Services Department.

The task of turning the fireboat into a museum will cost the government more than $35million. A number of small exhibition galleries will also be built nearby.

Mr Chan said Alexander Grantham was an important part of Hong Kong's history because it came out of the Hong Kong and Whampoa Dock in 1953, during the golden age of the local ship-building industry.

With dimensions of 38.9m in length, 8.8m in width and 15m in height, the vessel is the largest in the fleet of fireboats managed by the Fire Services Department.

During its 49 years of service it took part in many fire-fighting and sea rescue operations.

When it was decommissioned in May, 2002, the government had not yet decided its fate, but thanks to public support it was finally agreed to preserve the relic and convert it into a public museum.

The restoration of the fireboat started in mid-2005 and was finished last month. Restorers spent many long hours removing old paint and corrosion from all its surfaces. They then applied a durable protective coating for long-term protection.

Work on the foundations of the museum at the Quarry Bay Park site were started in 2004, but the public will have to wait until April, 2007, for the museum's formal opening.