The Australian financier behind a plan to build a full-scale version of the Titanic says the project is on track to have its maiden voyage from Southampton, England, to New York soon.
Clive Palmer, the Australian billionaire who captured the world's attention last April with his far-fetched plan to rebuild and sail the ill-fated ship, revealed at a press event in New York City Tuesday that plans are underway to construct the $200-million ship at a Chinese shipyard.
And tens of thousands of people, he claims, have come forward as eager customers, some willing to pay as much as $1 million for a ticket on the first trip.
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" said James McDonald, global marketing director of Blue Star Line Pty. Ltd.
Blue Star Line is not affiliated with White Star Line, the original maker of the Titanic, which was subsequently bought by Cunard. For its part, Cunard says it will never make any vessel with anything resembling Titanic in its name.
The maiden voyage is tentatively slated for February 2016, and will take passengers from Southampton to New York City, just as the original Titanic had tried to do before hitting an iceberg and sinking in the North Atlantic.
"I've got the money so I can do it," Palmer said. "I can build the Titanic …we're going ahead to do it."
If the claims of $1-million offers for tickets are true, it's an exponential increase from the amount of money the original voyagers paid. Tickets on the first Titanic went for about $4,000 in 1912, or roughly $50,000 in today's dollars with inflation factored in.
Blue Star officials say they are hammering out the final details of a contract with CSC Jinling, based in Jiangsu province, to build the ship.
The Titanic was the world's largest and most luxurious ocean liner when it hit an iceberg and sank on April 15, 1912, killing more than 1,500 people.
Roughly 700 people survived, most of who were rescued by another ship that responded to the Titanic's distress call, the RMS Carpathia. (The Carpathia was later sunk by a German U-boat off the Irish coast in 1918.)
Palmer says the Titanic II will remain very true to the original, with decorations, public spaces and interiors looking very much like the original's, but improved with modern safety and comfort amenities.
The diesel-powered ship will even have four smoke stacks like the coal-powered original, but they will be purely decorative.
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.