If billionaire Clive Palmer has his way, a near carbon copy of the Titanic liner may finally make its way into New York Harbor.
The Australian, who made his estimated $5.2 billion fortune in real estate and mining, announced today that he intends to build the "Titanic II" based on the original dimensions of the ship. "It will be every bit as luxurious as the original Titanic, but ... will have state-of-the-art 21st century technology and the latest navigation and safety systems," Palmer said in a statement. He deemed the project "a tribute to the spirit of the men and women who worked on the original Titanic."
Palmer's announcement comes only weeks after the 100-year anniversary of the ship's sinking on its maiden voyage to New York City. More than 1,500 people died.
This isn't the first time talk of building a replica of the Titanic has been floated. Back in 1998, after the wild success of James Cameron's movie about the vessel, a Swiss-U.S. partnership was created to launch a ship by the 90th anniversary of her sinking. The project would have cost somewhere close to $500 million, with tickets on the maiden voyage going for between $10,000 and $100,000.
That project eventually was dumped because of the enormity of the liner's cost. Palmer says his venture won't suffer the same fate, and he has already signed a memorandum of understanding with Chinese company CSC Jinling Shipyard to build the Titanic II. He's also created a company called Blue Star Line Pty. Ltd. that is working with a historical research team to faithfully recreate the ship.
Of course, this being a modern vessel, not everything will be like it was in 1912. For starters, those dirty and environmentally damaging coal-burning engines will be replaced with cleaner diesel-powered engines. The ship will still have four smoke stacks, but they'll be for purely decorative purposes (like the original fourth funnel was on Titanic).
The other big changes will happen below the waterline, with welding rather than rivets, a bulbous bow for greater fuel efficiency, and an enlarged rudder and bow thrusters for increased maneuverability. The ship would be capable of carrying more than 1,600 passengers, down from the original vessel's 2,435 — likely due to increased cabin sizes and other modern amenities.
Palmer says he hopes to have the ship ready for a maiden voyage by 2016, but some in the investment world challenge that timeline because the Chinese lack experience in building cruise liners. "That's a huge jump for a country that builds mostly bulk ships" used for carrying coal, iron ore and grains, Hur Sung Duck, an analyst at HI Investment & Securities Co. in Seoul told SF Gate. "I seriously find it difficult to believe it can be built by that time."
Anyone else out there excited about this project? Would you take a trip on the Titanic II?