Titanic II: a revival plan and a few questions

News media worldwide has been reporting an Australian entrepreneur-politician’s renewed plans to build Titanic II, a replica of the ill-fated Titanic, and send the ship to retrace the voyage from Southampton to New York.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi | Updated: October 26, 2018 1:00:44 am
Titanic II: a revival plan and a few questions Concept design of the ship. (YouTube)

Over the last few days, news media worldwide has been reporting an Australian entrepreneur-politician’s renewed plans to build Titanic II, a replica of the ill-fated Titanic, and send the ship to retrace the voyage from Southampton to New York. Some of these reports, however, have raised questions about the plan, announced by the same entrepreneur whose earlier such venture had failed to take off.

Original plan, revived

An Australian company called Blue Star Line has put out a statement on its website, saying that its chairman, Clive Palmer, has confirmed that work has “recommenced” by Blue Star Line to build Titanic ll and to put Titanic ll into service on the London-New York route across the Atlantic.

Palmer, now 64, was elected an MP in 2013, and served in Australia’s House of Representatives until 2016, when he retired before the elections, according to his biography on the official website of Australia’s Parliament. A conservative politician, he led his own party, Palmer United Party, which he dissolved in 2017. A report in The Guardian said that the party has been rebranded the United Australia Party, and that Palmer has announced he will once again stand for Parliament.

In 2012, Palmer announced the Titanic II project for the first time. An article on the online magazine Slate said that Palmer was not actually building anything then. He had got a Finnish ship-design company and a Chinese state-owned shipbuilder to sign a memorandum of understanding and “conduct preliminary technical studies”, Slate said, citing Palmer’s comments to an Australian magazine. The plan was for the ship to set sail in 2015, later extended to 2018, but it was shelved in 2016 over a payment dispute with the Chinese entity.

On its website, Blue Star Line said Palmer’s flagship company, Mineralogy, had been in dispute with Chinese government-owned Citic Limited over “the non-payment of hundreds of millions of dollars of royalties owed to Palmer companies”. This was apparently what led to the shelving of the plan; “those matters have been resolved”, Blue Star Line said. “In late 2017 the Western Australian Supreme Court ordered that Citic Limited pay hundreds of millions of dollars in back royalty payments to Blue Star Line’s parent company Mineralogy,” it said.

What’s known, what isn’t

The company has put out a video on YouTube, while its Twitter handle @titanic_ii has become newly active after two years of silence. Various aspects of the exact replication have been announced — 9 decks, 835 cabins, 2,435 passengers; tickets in first, second and third classes; even the grand staircase that plays a central role in the 1997 film Titanic.

What it not clear is when the ship sets sail. While various publications have reported that the targeted date is 2022, exactly 110 years after the 1910 voyage, The Guardian quoted a company spokesperson as confirming that no dates have been announced yet.

The Titanic II headquarters is likely to be in Paris, the Blue Star Line website says.

Controversies

Palmer had appointed his nephew Clive Mensink as the European chief of the Titanic II project. He will be responsible for recruitment, training and negotiations, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Mensink is a fugitive from Australian law, with two arrest warrants against him. Following the collapse of one of Palmer’s companies, Queensland Nickel, Mensink failed to return from overseas to answer liquidators’ questions, leading to the warrant.

The Slate magazine article referred to another failed project. Palmer had bought a coastal resort and pledged but failed to build the world’s largest animatronic dinosaur park, but finally let the property slip into abandonment. “Palmer says the property is merely closed to the public, and that he uses it like Donald Trump uses Mar-a-Lago,” Slate said.

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