Aircraft carrier used as Chinese theme park sets sail for new home

Vessel was so popular when it was introduced at theme park in late 1990s, people reportedly needed special connections to secure tickets

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 April, 2016, 11:20pm
UPDATED : Monday, 04 April, 2016, 11:20pm

A former Soviet aircraft carrier has ended its 16-year port call at a Shenzhen theme park and set sail for its new home on the coast of the East China Sea, mainland media reported on Monday.

The Minsk, which saw service in the Soviet and Russia navies before it was decommissioned, has been docked at Sha Tau Kok in Shenzhen since it was bought and refitted as a tourist attraction by a Chinese company in 1998.

It was the centrepiece of the Minsk World military theme park, which opened in 2000 and was touted as a first for China. Now that the carrier has left, the park has also closed down.

The hulk headed off on Saturday for a new 10 billion yuan (US$1.54 billion or HK$12 billion) aircraft carrier theme park being built in an industrial park in Nantong, Jiangsu province and due to open next year.

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The vessel is expected to arrive in Zhoushan or an overhaul in a week before setting off for ­Nantong.

The Shenzhen company that owns the carrier announced in January that due to “various objective factors”, the company had decided to move it.

The Yangcheng Evening News quoted a tourism industry source as saying the main reasons for the Minsk’s departure were poor management and a government decision to reclaim land in the area. The source said the park’s profits had fallen over the years and the owner did not put much effort into promotion.

It did not have strong links with either the government or the [tourism] association
Tourism industry source on the Minsk’s ebbing popularity

“It did not have strong links with either the government or the [tourism] association. The Minsk was rarely part of tourism trade shows,” he said.

Deng Keli, who has worked for the park since 1998, said that when the Minsk first arrived in Shenzhen more than 30,000 tourists rushed to have a look at it in one day, the Southern Metropolis News reported.

The carrier was so popular that people needed to use personal connections to secure tickets, Deng said.

The park raked in more than 10 million yuan during its first week-long National Day holiday, and continued to be popular for the next five to six years, Deng said.

As part of the show, staff would dress as Russian naval personnel and dance for visitors.

Facilities open to visitors included a torpedo launch cabin and the missile launch area.

The theme park also included an 80,000 square metre land-based exhibition area, with theatres and displays on weapons.