When Australian business mogul Clive Palmer ceremoniously unveiled plans to build a replica of the HMS Titanic at a press conference in New York on February 26, 2013, his proposal was met with a mixture of disbelief, fascination, and curiosity. Palmer amassed his fortune as a savvy businessman, but the Titanic project, along with his proposal to build a dinosaur-themed amusement park, created an aura of eccentricity around him – an aura compounded by his political ambitions of being elected Prime Minister of Australia. Palmer’s plans to build Titanic II, however, are grounded in reality, and he has taken concrete steps to bring the project to fruition.
Towards the goal of completing the Titanic II project by 2016, Palmer has proceeded with essential components of his business plan. Scale models of the ship have been built to demonstrate fealty to the original Titanic, and to allow the public visibility into the envisioned vessel. Marketing for the project was the easy part, as a billionaire’s announcement of plans to build a replica of a venerated vessel that sank on its maiden voyage automatically generated considerable media attention and public interest. More concrete steps toward the project’s completion, however, are evident in Palmer’s establishment of Blue Star Line as the agent for reserving passage on the completed ship and, more importantly, his contracting with Finnish ship designer Deltamarin for engineering support and with Chinese shipbuilder CSC Jinling Shipyard, an established builder of large vessels – a decision that will help contain cost overruns, which are common with unique or complex shipbuilding projects (Chinese labor being less expensive than in other major shipbuilding countries).
It is this educator’s prediction, based upon years of experience at observing complex shipbuilding projects, that the ship will not be completed on schedule, given the 2014 start date and 2016 completion schedule. That schedule appears excessively ambitious. Then, again, two to three years is possible assuming no unanticipated engineering or construction obstacles, and no labor disputes that can slow the project – an unlikely occurrence in a Chinese shipyard.