The new Titanic is being commissioned by Australian billionaire Clive Palmer, who announced Monday that he has signed a memorandum of understanding with state-owned Chinese company CSC Jinling Shipyard to build the Titanic II.
He is not the first billionaire hobbyist to entertain the resurrection of the Titanic; he has said that attempts to build a Titanic replica failed in the past because proponents failed to raise enough money and commission a shipyard.
No kidding. Although Palmer did not provide a cost estimate, we can be sure the project is at least as ambitious in scope and financial solubility as James Cameron’s 1997 film about the ill-fated luxury liner.
Palmer, a coal-mining magnate, built a fortune on real estate on Australia's Gold Coast tourist strip. He is estimated to be worth about $5.2 billion – the fifth wealthiest Australian.
The building of the Titanic II will be the first of four such luxury liner projects under the auspices of Blue Star Line Pty. Ltd., a new shipping company Palmer founded. The design work for the Titanic II has begun, with the assistance of a historical research team.
The new ship will feature the four smokestacks of the original but they will be purely decorative, as the ship will be diesel-powered. Most of the changes to the new ship will be technological and will not affect the aesthetic appearance of the ship. The most notable design changes will be below the waterline and necessary to accommodate new ship technologies, such as welding rather than rivets, a bulbous bow for greater fuel efficiency and enlarged rudder and bow thrusters for increased maneuverability.
Compared to modern luxury ship standards, the new Titanic will be on the small side, but might very well prove profitable, especially as it will attract the top end of the luxury market. Most modern cruise ships create economies of scale by catering for more than 2,000 passengers, while the Titanic II is being built for 1,680 passengers – less than the original. But Brett Jardine, general manager for Australia and New Zealand in the industry group International Cruise Council thinks the Titanic II might succeed as a specialty niche item.
"If you've got a niche, it's going to work. Why go out there and try to compete with the mass market products that are out there now?" he said.