AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
Published — Thursday 28 February 2013
Last update 28 February 2013 12:28 am
NEW YORK: Flamboyant Australian tycoon Clive Palmer unveiled his plan Tuesday for building a perfect replica of the Titanic — plus a lot of extra lifeboats.
More than a century after the original, supposedly unsinkable ocean liner hit an iceberg and went down in the North Atlantic, Palmer says he thinks the time has come to complete the unfinished journey to New York. “The Titanic was the ship of dreams. Titanic II is the ship where dreams will come true,” Palmer said in New York at the project’s official launch. Featuring the same rigid divisions as in 1912 between first, second and third class, passengers will eat either in an ornate dining room or at a long common table.
“There’ll be no mingling” between classes, Palmer said. Passengers in the luxury section will enjoy the identical grand staircase and reproductions of the original Titanic’s Turkish bath and swimming pool.
Rebuffing public skepticism about the project, Palmer said a contract could be signed with China’s CSC Jinling Shipyard within days, with construction starting by the end of this year and the launch in 2016. He wouldn’t say what it will all cost.
“Certain people, certain individuals spend too much time saying, ‘Oh that will never happen’,” he said. Palmer refused to give the estimated cost, stating bluntly: “I’m funding this myself because I want to spend the money I’ve got before I die.”
A larger-than-life character who has made a fortune in mining, Palmer said he was unfazed by the seeming temptation of fate in giving one of the unluckiest shipping projects in history a second chance. “I’m not too superstitious,” he said.
Titanic II will closely resemble the original, although with important modifications, including a slightly wider hull and an extra layer of decking.
Passengers will be provided with period costumes appropriate to their class of ticket, Palmer said, joking that he will be in third class: “That’s where the fun’s going to be.”
One modification that Palmer underlined is a vast improvement in the lifeboats, which were insufficient on the original ship, contributing to the loss of more than 1,500 people when it sank in icy waters.
Palmer said this time the ship would exceed regulatory requirements with top-of-the-range lifeboats that are “very safe.”
“You could go round the world in them if you wanted,” he said.
Markku Kanerva, from Deltamarin, the Finnish firm designing Titanic II, said “we go far beyond” latest regulations.
“I can assure you that from the safety point of view it will be absolutely the most safe cruise ship in the world when it’s launched,” he said.
But Palmer wouldn’t fall into the trap of echoing the original “unsinkable” claim.
“It would be very cavalier to say anything like that. I think people have said that in the past,” Palmer deadpanned.
At 833 feet, the ship will be about a finger’s length longer than the original, with room for 2,435 passengers and 900 crew.
If all goes according to plan, Titanic II will start by sailing from China to Southampton, England, and from there along the original, ill-fated route to New York. After, the ship would cruise mostly in the North Atlantic.
Not only will crew — and possibly passengers — be in costume, but there will probably be no televisions aboard, or Internet access, Palmer said.
That pleased Helen Benziger, a descendant of Titanic survivor Margaret “Molly” Brown.
She hailed “the romance of the Titanic” and a chance “to spend five days on a ship where people are civil. I think we all crave a bit of civility in our lives, where there’s grace, where there’s, excuse me, manners.”
Palmer said the lack of distracting modern gadgets for a few days would do even more than improve manners.
“You can fall in love with your wife again,” he said, joking: “We want to reduce the trend on divorces in the United States.”