An Australian tycoon announces a bizarre plan to launch a replica of the doomed passenger liner RMS Titanic
This week, a “brash” 58-year old Australian mining tycoon named Clive Palmer announced that he will launch a full-scale replica of the RMS Titanic in 2016.
On hearing of this, I wondered if April Fool’s Day had come early, but it turns out that this billionaire is quite serious in his ambitions. Palmer, who is funding the estimated £133 million project personally, has just begun a world tour to share his plans. The businessman, in a bow to history, has even appointed Terry Ismay, a descendant of the Titanic’s owner, Joseph Bruce Ismay (1862 – 1937), whom many still refer to as “The Coward of the Titanic”, to the advisory board of the Blue Star Line, the company formed to manage the boat. Mr Ismay will be one of the guests of honour at a dinner at London’s Natural History Museum to celebrate the project tomorrow, Saturday 2nd March. The same 11-course menu first class passengers on the Titanic consumed on the fateful night of 14th April 1912 will be served.
Preliminary plans reveal the Titanic II will be some 55,800 gross tonnes in weight, 883 foot long and propelled by three azimuth thrusters. It will have a maximum speed of 24 knots, the same as the first Titanic. The ocean liner will have a capacity of 2,345 passengers and a crew of 900. Unlike the RMS Titanic, which had just 16 lifeboats for 1,178 people, the Titanic II will have 18 covered motorised lifeboats capable of carrying 2,700 and life rafts with an additional capacity of 800.
Though the replica vessel will be virtually the same size as the original and will feature the same class divisions of first, second and third class, there will be differences. The “shopping areas” found on many modern day cruise boats will be present and sensibly, there will be extra bathroom facilities and air conditioning. A decision as to whether Wi-Fi and televisions will be provided is yet to be made.
In a press release, Professor Palmer, who is described on Wikipedia as “an eccentric billionaire with a reputation for bizarre publicity stunts”, romantically stated:
“Why build the Titanic? Why go to the moon? Why do the Yankees play the Red Sox? Why did Christopher Columbus discover the Americas? Because they could, and they can, and we can build the Titanic”.
“By learning from the lessons of the past, the spirit of Rose and Jack, Romeo and Juliet, lives in all of us. The spirit of life, the spirit of love, to dream the impossible dream, all of us live in time, this is our moment, this is our turn to board Titanic II and set sail on a new sea, of our own making”.
“The Titanic was a ship of dreams, Titanic II is the ship where dreams will come true”.
Unlike the original RMS Titanic, which was built in the Harland and Wolff yard in Belfast, it is intended that Titanic II will be constructed in the Chinese state-owned shipyard, CSC Jinling. This is a curious choice as the company have no experience in constructing passenger vessels and as of date, according to Zheng Yi of the Global Times, no contract for completion of Titanic II has been signed, no date for start of construction has been fixed and no price has been finalised.
Equally, the first of a series of launch events for the project on a pier in New York this week (which began with a “rather cheesy guitar rendition of Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On”) was met with derision by many, amongst them Vanity Fair’s Juli Weiner. In her article, Weiner refers to the “morally reprehensible and dehumanizing economic divisions” that “one weird rich dude’s” boat will feature and goes on to describe it as “the second worst cruise we’ve ever heard of”.
Robert Colville of the Australian title The Age, however, took a contrary view and though skeptical about this “bizarre” and “crazily ambitious scheme” shared his admiration for Palmer:
“Palmer risks becoming a latter-day Ozymandias, his monument a 50,000-tonne liner rather than a crumbling statue. Yet at least he has the courage to dream his impossible dream, and help make the world a slightly weirder, and slightly more wonderful place”.
Larger than life, Queensland based Palmer is known for causing controversy. In 2012, he suggested Greenpeace were funded by the CIA and were attempting to bring down the Australian coal mining sector with the help of Barrack Obama and the Rockefeller Foundation:
“You only have to go back and read the Church Report in the 1970s and to read the reports to the US Congress which sets up the Rockefeller Foundation as a conduit of CIA funding, you only have to look at their secret budget which was passed by Congress last year, bigger than our whole national economy, which the CIA’s got to ensure that. You only have to read the reports to US Congress when the CIA reported to the president that their role was to ensure the US competitive advantage and economic advantages. That’s how you know it’s funded by the CIA”.
No doubt, there are cranks out there who’d suggest the sinking of the RMS Titanic in April 1912 with the loss of 1,502 lives, was also a conspiracy. Given also Palmer’s odd view of the world, we’d most definitely avoid embarking on this tasteless pastiche of the tragically doomed ship, if, indeed, it is ever completed and if indeed it ever sets sail.
We leave the last word with the family of the RMS Titanic’s captain, Edward Smith R.D. R.N.R. (1850 – 1912), who have simply commented that the Titanic II is just a vessel that is being built “in bad taste”.
For more information about Titanic II, go to: http://bluestarline.com.au