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Australian billionaire to build a 21st-century Titanic.

Call it marketing genius, bad taste, or just another case of billionaire playboy lunacy; whatever your response, it’s happening: Australian billionaire mining magnate Clive Palmer is planning to build a new Titanic!

Why? It’s hard to say. The uber-rich Palmer recently took a shine to tourism, bought himself a luxury resort on the Sunshine Coast and now plans to build a fleet of luxury liners, Titanic II being his first.

According to Palmer, the replica of the ill-fated luxury liner will have the exact size, dimensions and style of the original, but with all the nautical safety systems and technological innovations of the present.

Certainly a case of tempting fate, but really, will anyone pay to board such a thing, let alone set sail on it? Palmer, it seems, is hedging his bets that nostalgia and rationality will win over inescapable superstition:

“Hey, take a trip on a ship that replicates the vessel that sank in the most tragic maritime disaster in history. You’ll love it!”

“Well, I suppose. I’m a rational human being. Why shouldn’t I?”

Really?

Palmer says design work for Titanic II has started with the help of a historical research team. China’s state-owned CSC Jinling Shipyard will build the ship, and it’s estimated to set sail in 2016. The ship will have 840 rooms and nine decks, as per the original, with improvements including diesel rather than coal generation, an enlarged rudder and bow thrusters for increased maneuverability, a bulbous bow for increased fuel efficiency and, most significantly for anyone with detailed knowledge of the Titanic’s demise, the hull will be constructed by means of welding rather riveting.

Titanic II will be the ultimate in comfort and luxury, with onboard gymnasiums and swimming pools, libraries, high class restaurants and luxury cabins,” Palmer said.

The decision to build Titanic II, and to announce it only weeks after the centenary of the Titanic’s sinking, has been met with both high praise and impassioned criticism.

Comments from readers on news agency websites covering the story have been many and varied. Some see the billionaire’s move as symptomatic of Australia’s rapidly declining morality and ethics. Others consider it great PR.

In regards to the ship’s safety, Palmer said, “Of course it will sink if you put a hole in it.” To which he then added, “It is going to be designed so it won’t sink. It will be designed as a modern ship with all the technology to ensure that doesn’t happen.”

But… isn’t that what they said 100 years ago?