- - Wednesday, February 27, 2013

He’s not the “king of the world,” exactly, but Australian mining tycoon Clive Palmer is a very wealthy man with an extraordinary dream: building and operating his own version of the Titanic, the doomed luxury liner that went down in 1912.

Mr. Palmer unveiled plans for his historically accurate replica, “Titanic II,” on Saturday in China, where the ship will be built, and said the new Titanic is expected to recreate the iconic England-to-New York maiden voyage of the original sometime in 2016.

The new ship will be designed to replicate, as much as possible, the look and feel of the 1912 ship, with important exceptions being made for comfort (air conditioning), safety and modern shipbuilding practices.

Passengers will even be able to enjoy the cruise in historically accurate costumes, if they choose, with clothing provided in every cabin.

Estimated by Forbes to be worth $795 million in 2012, Mr. Palmer, 58, said he is building the boat, well, because he can.

“John Kennedy said in the ‘60s we chose to go to the moon because we can go there, we have individual choices to do that. I’ve got the money, so I can do it. I can build the Titanic. We’ve got the partners, and we guarantee to do it, because we want to go to the moon,” he said in an interview last year with the BBC.

Mr. Palmer’s new cruise company, the Blue Line Star, was founded last year on the 100th year anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.

He said the project was an effort to pay tribute to the craftsmen in the United Kingdom who built the original “Ship of Dreams.”

Last year, Mr. Palmer signed a deal with CSC Jinling to build the Titanic II and said he hopes the project will establish the Chinese company as a major player in the shipbuilding industry.

The original Titanic, commissioned by the White Star Line, was the largest liner of its time.

Titanic II will have 840 cabins and the same floor plans as the original — but there are important differences: the new ship will have a bulbous bow for fuel efficiency, its hull will be welded instead of riveted and engines will run on diesel rather than coal.

The distinctive smoke stacks of the original will be decorative additions on the new ship.

Perhaps most importantly, the new ship will have a 700-lifeboat capacity, more than enough to handle the maximum number of passengers and crew if the unthinkable happens.

The original 1912 ship, infamously called “unsinkable,” claimed 1,523 lives when it went down in one of the worst peacetime maritime disasters in history.

Given that history, some were surprised this week when the Finnish designer of the new boat said the Titanic II will be the “safest cruise ship in the world.”

Still, the new Titanic has fired imaginations around the world.

“I think what this really speaks to, is the fact that the Titanic still inspires. … Even though the ship left, in sinking, we haven’t been able to leave it,” said James Delgado, a maritime historian at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Nowhere will the resurrection of the Titanic be watched more closely than Ireland, where the original ship was born in the Belfast shipyard.

Titanic was built in Belfast, fitted out in Belfast, and began its journey from Belfast to Southampton in 1912. As the authentic home of Titanic, it would be natural to expect Titanic II to dock in Belfast,” said Alex McGreevy, spokesman for the Titanic Belfast Limited, a Titanic-themed museum and one of the city’s popular attractions.

“We will be watching with interest the decision by Mr. Palmer to recreate a modern version of the finest ship of its time.”

Mr. McGreevy warned that the story of the Titanic, however, is about more than engineering marvels and blockbuster movies. It’s also the very real and tragic tale of more than 1,500 lives lost.

Titanic’s story can also be a great divider of opinion, and the attempt to build a ship of its like and use ‘Titanic‘ in its naming, would certainly create debate,” he said.

“While there are many great reasons to be proud of our shipbuilding heritage, Titanic Belfast is, utmostly, respectful and mindful of the loss of life on RMS Titanic.”