THE Australian billionaire who is planning to build a hi-tech replica of the Titanic at a Chinese shipyard has received an “overwhelming” response from people who want to be among the first paying passengers.
Representatives for Clive Palmer, who in April announced a preliminary agreement with state-owned Chinese company CSC Jinling Shipyard to build Titanic II, said yesterday that his shipping company had received inquiries from the US, the UK, Asia and South America.
Interest has been so strong that “we’ve probably had half a dozen people already offering more than $1 million (£645,000) to get on the maiden voyage”, which is planned for 2016, said James McDonald, global marketing director of Blue Star Line.
The clamour for places comes despite the fact that construction has not even started. Blue Star officials said they hoped to sign a final contract soon with CSC Jinling, based in Jiangsu province. They would not reveal how much Titanic II is expected to cost.
The Titanic was the world’s largest and most luxurious ocean liner when it hit an iceberg in the North Atlantic and sank on 15 April, 1912, killing more than 1,500 people.
Palmer has said the new ship will be just as luxurious as the original but will also have the latest navigation and safety technology. The designers will be assisted by a historical research team as they try to make the ship look as close as possible to the original. The diesel-powered ship will even have four smoke stacks like the coal-powered original, but they will be purely decorative.
Raymond Tam, Blue Star’s director of Asia operations, said the contract for Titanic II will be a shot in the arm for China’s fledgling shipbuilding industry as it tries to compete globally. He said: “China has been one of the strongest players in building bulk carriers and container vessels. In terms of building luxury ships, they have a small market share. However, Titanic II will be the start of a massive Chinese challenge to the European luxury shipbuilders.”
Palmer made his fortune in real estate and coal. Australia’s BRW magazine estimated his net worth last year at $4 billion, although Forbes puts it at $895m.