China county building $207 million full-scale Titanic replica to boost tourism

Formal construction of a life-size Titanic replica has started in Southwest China.

BEIJING (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A solemn ceremony was held in the tiny, hilly county of Daying in South-west China's Sichuan province on Wednesday (Nov 30), where a keel of a full-scale replica of the RMS Titanic was laid. 

The ceremony was attended by former British deputy prime minister Peter Mandelson and several US designers

The doomed luxury cruise ship sank in 1912 after hitting an iceberg during its maiden voyage. More than two-thirds of the 2,224 passengers perished, mainly due to a shortage of lifeboats.

To boost development of the local tourism sector, Daying is building a life-size replica of the cruise ship by the Qijiang River with an investment of 1 billion yuan (S$207 million).

Upon completion of the replica, it will be permanently docked in a reservoir in the river, according to Mr Hu Mingchao, head of Daying county.

Planning for the construction of the replica started more than two years ago when GC High-Tech, a United States-based company, was invited to design it.

The designing process has been slow because the firm has had to consult the builder of the replica, Wuchang Shipyard, which is based in Wuhan, Hubei province.

"The shipyard is a builder of nuclear submarines and is technically strong. But building the Titanic replica is so complicated that the US firm has had to consult the shipyard constantly to figure out if it can meet the challenges of turning the design into a full-scale replica," said Mr James Wu, China regional chief representative of America Hollywood Television and Film Media Inc.

Mr Wu, a US citizen, said GC High-Tech is part of America Hollywood Television and Film Media.

Wuchang Shipyard only started building components for the replica in April and is expected to finish all components by August next year, according to Mr Wang Zhigang, general manager of the Wuhan Branch of China Classification Society, which sets technical criteria for, and oversees, shipyards.

The interior and exterior of the replica will be built according to the Titanic's original design.

Mr Su Shaojun, chairman of Qixing Energy Investment in Zhejiang province, which is the investor of the replica, said the replica's interior would include the cruise ship's large banquet hall and first-class guesthouse.

"After the RMS Titanic sank, nobody saw its complete set of blueprints. Many blueprint fragments found their way into the hands of collectors or remained missing. We spent many years collecting the blueprints from many parts of the world and managed to obtain most of them," Mr Su said.

It is unknown when the replica will open to visitors, but preorders for overnight stays were first accepted in Hong Kong in June 2005, with tickets for a one-night, economy-class stay starting at about 3,000 yuan (S$622), and the price for a luxury fare amounting to hundreds of thousands of yuan.