A Chinese shipyard will help the Titanic finally reach New York, after an order to build a replica of the luxury liner was made by an Australian billionaire.
The deal between State-owned CSC Jinling Shipyard Co Ltd in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, and Australian mining magnate Clive Palmer to build Titanic II is music to the ears of China's shipbuilding industry, which is currently mired in its steepest earnings slump in three years.
According to shipyard spokesman Li Wenbao, the Chinese company signed a memorandum of understanding on April 20 with the Australian tycoon to construct the ship in China.
"We will try to build a liner that has the same dimensions as the original Titanic, which sank on its maiden voyage 100 years ago. The Australian side is in charge of the design," Li told China Daily on Wednesday.
It is too early to talk about the economic gains, Li noted, but "we hope the deal will expand our international influence and thus win us more orders".
Of the 21 orders CSC received last year, the majority were from overseas.
Li said work on the liner is still at the preparatory stage, and was unable to disclose the cost of the deal, as "we have not yet reached that stage".
The ship will be equipped with "the latest navigation and safety systems", Palmer was quoted by the Australian Associated Press as saying in Brisbane on Monday. The new vessel is scheduled to make its maiden voyage from London to New York in late 2016.
Palmer said design work in conjunction with a historical research team had commenced on Titanic II, which will have 840 rooms and nine decks.
"It will be designed as a modern ship with all the technology to ensure that (an accident) doesn't happen," he said. "But of course if you are superstitious, you never know what could happen."
"Titanic II will be the ultimate in comfort and luxury with onboard gymnasiums and swimming pools, libraries, high-class restaurants and luxury cabins. The only differences will be below the waterline - the ship will be powered by diesel rather coal and will include a bulbous bow for greater fuel efficiency, plus an enlarged rudder and bow thrusters for improved maneuverability. It will have four smoke stacks like the coal-powered original, but they will be purely decorative," said Palmer.
Apart from Titanic II, the tycoon's shipping company, Blue Star Line Pty Ltd, has commissioned the Chinese shipyard to build bulk cargo ships.
The cooperation comes as China's shipbuilding industry faces choppy waters amid sluggish demand and intensified competition.
In the first quarter, China built ships amounting to 11.2 million deadweight tons, down 22.5 percent year-on-year, according to figures from the China Association of the National Shipbuilding Industry.
New orders totaled 5.59 million deadweight tons, a drop of 48.7 percent from a year earlier. Combined outstanding orders were 141.9 million deadweight tons, down 5.3 percent from the end of 2011.
The building of the Titanic II in a Chinese shipyard marks a strategic shift as the shipbuilding sector becomes less dependent on bulk carriers and seeks to increase the share of high-tech vessels such as containerships, said Steen Lund, managing director of international ship classification society Germanischer Lloyd SE's Asia-Pacific operations.
"Chinese yards have taken steps to become builders of offshore installation vessels and are entering the cruise vessel segment," Lund said.
The move "is also part of the trend that, driven by cost reductions, the market has seen the construction of such high-tech and high value-added ship types as cruise vessels move from Europe to Asia", he added.
Meanwhile, the cruise industry has huge potential in China. According to the China Association of Port-of-Entry, the number of people traveling in and out of China on cruises reached 718,000 in 2011, accounting for just 0.4 percent of overall inbound and outbound travel.