SYDNEY - Agence France-Presse
A visitor looks at the model of the Titanic, displayed during the exhibition "Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition 100th Anniversary". AFP Photo
Australian billionaire Clive Palmer today said his modern-day version of the Titanic will retain the first, second and third-class divisions of the original and include a new "safety" deck.
Releasing the preliminary plans and drawings for the Titanic II, which is to be built in China, mining tycoon Palmer said the massive vessel would have the original nine decks plus an additional safety deck.
"This is to ensure the vessel is fully compliant with the current regulations which require passenger ships to, as much as possible and practicable, keep the distance from the lifeboat launching area to the waterline as low as possible," Palmer said in a statement to AFP.
"It will also increase the passenger amenity area of the vessel." The new safety deck will feature proper lifeboats, safety chutes or slides as well as new common public rooms.
Palmer said the upper decks would retain the public rooms, passenger stairs, cabins and other features in similar locations as on the original ship which sank on April 15, 1912 en route to New York after hitting an iceberg.
But the plans by Finnish-based ship design and engineering company Deltamarin also feature new escape stairs and service elevators, while one deck has been re-designed to provide crew accommodation, laundry and machinery.
The flamboyant billionaire said Titanic II's first voyage remained set for late 2016, with the boat due to sail from China
to England ahead of her maiden passenger journey to North America. Interest was "overwhelming", he said.
Palmer said the new ship would have a casino, but warned that there would be "strict restrictions" on who was allowed to gamble at it.
"There will be some sort of screening to make sure people who do go there can afford to," Australian Associated Press quoted him as saying.
The self-made businessman, who has an estimated wealth of Aus$3.85 billion (US$3.96 billion) according to Australia's BRW magazine, said the relaunched Titanic would be about one metre wider than the original for "stability".
"But we've retained the essence of the Titanic by having first, second and third class. I think that's very important," Palmer said.
"So if you book on third class you can share a bathroom, sit down at a long table for dinner every night, have some Irish stew and a jig in the night." Palmer, who said he would buy a third class ticket for himself, would not comment on the cost of the project but said he wasn't looking for financial partners to rebuild the ship which went down a century ago.
"If you look for partners things mightn't happen. This is just for me to go for a little sail around the world in," he said.
There was scepticism when Palmer announced his ambitious plans in April to construct Titanic II with exactly the same dimensions as its ill-fated predecessor.
Though they were yet to be approved Palmer said the drawings underlined the commitment of his shipping company Blue Star Line to the project, and would allow Chinese shipbuilders CSC Jinling Shipyard to begin work.
The passenger liner, which will be close to 270 metres long (885 feet), will have an estimated gross tonnage of 65,000 tonnes.
The original Titanic, which was built in Belfast, sank on its first voyage from Southampton to New York, killing more than 1,500 passengers and crew.