HONG KONG: The Australian billionaire who's planning to build a high-tech replica of the Titanic at a Chinese shipyard has received an "overwhelming" response from people who want to be 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 Saturday that his shipping company has received inquiries from people in the U.S., Britain, Asia and South America.
Interest has been so strong that "we've probably had half a dozen people already offering more than $1 million to get on the maiden voyage" slated for 2016, said James McDonald, global marketing director of Blue Star Line Pty. Ltd.
The strong interest comes even though construction has not even started on the ship. 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, at the time, the world's largest and most luxurious ocean liner when it hit an iceberg in the North Atlantic and sank on April 15, 1912, killing more than 1,500 people.
Palmer has said the new ship will be just as luxurious as the original but 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.
"China has been one of the strongest players in building bulk carriers and container vessels," said Tam. "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 built 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 $895 million.