Australian to Build Titanic Replica

| Thursday, 03 May 2012

Australian to Build Titanic Replica

Clive Palmer, a well-known Australian billionaire, said last Monday he plans to build a high-tech replica of the original Titanic at a Chinese shipyard for the Australian cruise market. He plans to name it Titanic II. Its maiden voyage is slated for late 2016 and the first sailing will be the same transatlantic crossing from England to New York, as the original Titanic made, with stops in Cobh, Ireland, and Cherbourg, France.

Palmer announced his plans for the new ship - part of a whole new four ship cruise line, just two weeks after the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the original Titanic. Palmer says he has signed a memorandum of understanding with a Chinese government-owned shipbuilding company called CSC Jinling Shipyard.

Palmer was reported to be Australia's fifth-richest person last year with more than 5 billion Australian dollars (U.S. $5.2 billion). He said at a news conference that previous attempts to build a Titanic replica failed to raise enough money to succeed. Meanwhile, Titanic II is the first of four luxury cruise ships Palmer has commissioned CSC Jinling Shipyard to build.

Reaction from the U.S.-based cruise market came in the form of a Tweet from Carnival CEO Micky Arison who chirped, "I guess his goal is to become a millionaire."

For the record, although some of the cruise ships in regular service in the European market have been built in Japan, there has never been a regular cruise ship calling in American ports that was built in modern day China.

According to Palmer, the replica will be every bit as luxurious as the original Titanic, but ... "will have state-of-the-art 21st-century technology and the latest navigation and safety systems." He called the project "a tribute to the spirit of the men and women who worked on the original Titanic." Of course, they will personally never know since they are all long departed.

In any case, with the timing of the decision to build the four ship cruise line, Palmer will face stiff competition from U.S.-based cruise lines all scheduled to move ships to the Australia market as soon as the current Alaska season ends.

Several of those ships will come from the U.S. West Coast cruising region which has waned in popularity a great deal in the last five years. American cruise lines want to serve the Aussie maarket because the Australian dollar has gained tremendous value, now worth more than the U.S. Dollar when it was at just $.60 cents a few years ago.

Would you sail on Titanic II? Tell us here!

The U.S. cruise lines are hoping the Australians will have a huge appetite for cruising and will be willing to pay the same prices they paid two years ago, even though they know their dollar is now worth considerably more. The problem is that with so many U.S.-based ships heading to "down under" there will be a lot more cabins to fill, and so the price of cruises may drop considerably due to saturation of the market and simple supply and demand economics.

We have seen this specific strategy before, where cruise lines take a big gamble without really knowing how it is going to turn out. Why do they do this? I asked Royal Caribbean CEO Richard Fain this very question last summer in the article highlighted below. He explained to me that cruise lines rarely consider the effect of competition from other cruise lines - that they only tend to think about their own ships in any given market.

Some of the U.S. ships heading to Australia were highlighted in this previous article in Cruisemates The Cruise Lines Invade Australia. They include:

  • Royal Caribbean: Rhapsody of the Seas, Radiance of the Seas (4100 berths)
  • Celebrity Cruises: Century, Millennium and Solstice (6550 berths)
  • Princess Cruises: Sea Princess, Dawn Princess, Sun Princess, Diamond Princess and occasional visits by the Ocean Princess. (8500 berths)
  • Holland America will have the Volendam and the Zaandam there in the autumn of 2011. The Oosterdam departs Seattle for Sydney in September of 2012 where it will remain throughout the summer season. (4700 berths)
  • Carnival Spirit is headed there in October of 2012 - meaning there is still time to take the ship to Mexico next winter before it leaves. (2120 berths)
  • P & O Cruises will have four ships continuing to sail from Australia: Pacific Sun, Pacific Dawn, Pacific Pearl and Pacific Jewel (7650 berths).

Furthermore - there are a number of smaller lines offering one or more cruises down under; Captain Cook, Classic International, Hapag Lloyd, Oceania, Orion Expedition, Silversea and True North.

The ship will have four smoke stacks like the coal-powered original, but they will be purely decorative, it will actually run on deisel. The biggest changes will be below the water line, including welding rather than rivets that famously failed in the original Titanic - and completely watertight compartments. There will also be a bulbous bow for greater fuel efficiency and bow thrusters for increased manueverability.

Would you sail on Titanic II? Tell us here!

The Competition Heats Up

While the Titanic II is designed to carry around 1,680 passengers, most modern cruise ships create economies of scale by catering to more than 2,000 passengers, according to Palmer. In fact, the latest models carry more like 4000 passengers per cruise - as did the oiginal Titanic with its second and third classes.

Would you sail on Titanic II? Tell us here!

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