Monday, February 18, 2013

Titanic II – Sail or Sink?

Australian businessman Clive Parker’s ambition is launching. Will it cruise?

Fans of luxury ocean cruising and Leonardo DiCaprio, rejoice! Last night, 700 guests in Macau participated in a gala dinner that was the start of an international marketing and publicity roadshow to promote Australian magnate Clive Parker’s project to build a replica of the Titanic. The Macau dinner featured the same 11-course menu served to first-class passengers the night the Titanic sank on April 14, 1912. Though the proposed ship would primarily service the Atlantic Ocean route between Europe and the US once it is completed (target date 2016), Titanic II will make the occasional detour into the Pacific to give Asians a chance at a cruise weighted with history.
The more important connection to Asia is that Mr. Parker’s Blue Star Line cruise company, which will own the ship, is aiming to use state-owned Chinese shipyard CSC Jinling to build the vessel. An MOU between the parties was signed in April 2012. That arrangement sounds like a savvy proposition, partially given the publicity that it is meant to generate to the Chinese market. But even more enticing to Mr. Parker is the concessions that he is hoping to wring from the Chinese shipyard and other suppliers to lower the overall construction cost of the ship, which some estimates put at a minimum $500 million. (Blogger’s note: I’ve separately heard that the ship itself costs $100 million, but the extra life boats and flotation devices will add $400 million to the project’s budget). The Chinese shipping industry seems very keen to take on this type of landmark project, just to prove that it can. Basically, though China now accounts for 70% of the world’s shipbuilding, the country’s share of the luxury cruise line construction section is much less impressive, at 2%. The Chinese, therefore, are interested in doing some resume building. Whether world customers are keen to flout the eponymous ship’s ill-fated past by taking a ride on a vessel that has schooled China’s shipbuilding industry is a different question. An early indication of the Titanic II’s seaworthiness will be its initial transfer, escorted by vessels from China’s navy, from Jiansu Province to England’s Southampton, then onward to New York.
In any event, at least “half a dozen” potential customers have already indicated an interest to pay upwards of $1 million to take the maiden voyage. Any guesses on who two of them might be? Personally, I wouldn’t bet against Leo and Kate. They’ve probably already booked their place on the bow, ready to shout, “I'm...”. Well, you know the rest.

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