Long-serving fireboat finally set to open as a museum

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 September, 2007, 12:00am

After repeated delays because of bad weather and unexpected technical problems, the fireboat Alexander Grantham will be opened to the public as a museum at the end of the month.

The locally built 500-tonne vessel, which was decommissioned in 2002 after 49 years, has been at Quarry Bay Park since it was lifted from the water at Tsing Yi in March last year.

The museum, for which entry will be free, was to have opened last September but the opening was delayed until April because of the complexity of the project.

Bad weather then affected preparations and unexpected technical problems - such as the discovery of an underwater pipe that transports gas distilled from coal - caused further delays.

'I have never carried out a project that involves so many complicated issues,' said Chan Shing-wai, chief curator of the conservation section of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department.

Eastern district councillor Chan Yiu-tak said Taikoo Shing residents strongly opposed the project initially because of the noise pollution caused by construction and conservation work.

Although opposition for that reason abated, the district councillor said some residents were still concerned about whether the expected increase in the number of visitors to the area would affect the park's tranquillity.

Unveiling the layout of the project, Chan Shing-wai said that in addition to the Alexander Grantham, which will be at the centre of the 1,025 square metre site, there will be a 260 square metre gallery divided into three sections.

One section will recount the history of fireboats from 1883 to 1952, the second will focus on the period from 1952 to 2002, when the Alexander Grantham was the largest fireboat in service, and the third will deal with the period since 2002, when the fireboat Elite replaced the Alexander Grantham.

Chan Shing-wai said the gallery had been built about 3 metres below the ground and a water illusion on the side and above would give visitors to the museum the feeling that the gallery was floating.

Because of safety concerns, only 50 to 60 visitors will be allowed on the boat at any one time, and the museum will be closed when the typhoon signal No3 is hoisted or the red rainstorm warning is in force, Chan Shing-wai said.

The project has cost HK$34 million. Maintenance costs are expected to come to HK$2 million a year.