Stoffa: Titanic II might arrive by 2016


Photo courtesy of Wikimedia

Opinion: Stoffa 10/9

Gabriel Stoffa

The recent presidential debate played out similarly to the following piece of history:

President Barack Obama was like the Titanic, nigh unsinkable but with a design flaw and lack of preparation for disaster on a monstrous scale. Mitt Romney was like the iceberg, barely breaking the water, but with enough force below to stop the Titanic — Obama — in its tracks.

With that metaphor in mind, I thought I would deviate from the election for a moment to talk about the announcement by Australian billionaire Clive Palmer to release his designs for Titanic II on Dec. 4; and no, it isn’t going to be a birthday gift for James Cameron.

Back in April, Palmer announced the intention to build another Titanic, possibly to be ready by 2016. It received little press because, and I am only guessing here, no one figured it would be on the same actual scale as the original.

But now we have learned Palmer intends to build his boat with the same dimensions and same section layouts as the first, but with the addition of air conditioning and improved safety features.

I am not one to advocate superstitious beliefs holding back industry, but Titanic II seems like a disaster waiting to happen from every angle.

I doubt another iceberg will be hit on the maiden voyage, but a gigantic luxury ship sounds like just the type of target for a terrorist group. I know, I know, I should not have fear of such actions. But it seems like such a bad movie sequel already that I cannot help but think as such. “Speed 2: Cruise Control” anyone?

Financially I also have to wonder at how disastrous this could be. Based on the specs already out for Palmer’s designs, the previous segregation of class sections is to remain in place.

Yes, that is correct, mingling of the upper-crust with the plebeians is not to be allowed. Hmm, try letting that hold up once the booze is flowing.

In an interview with the The Brisbane Times, Palmer said third class passengers may not be allowed in the onboard casino, and pensioners from first, second or third class might also be banned from the casino floor.

“I love pensioners,” Palmer said. “We need to protect and respect people who have given a lot of service to this country and make sure that we don’t act positively to impoverish them later — that’s all it boils down to.”

Class segregation and restrictions to retirees that would likely enjoy a cruise on the big boat does not sound like a good business plan. But hey, Palmer is a billionaire, so he obviously knows what he is doing.

Class aside, what about the financial problems of getting people on a boat that stayed true, if Palmer sticks to what he says, to a design from 100 years ago.

Teijo Niemela, editor of Cruise Business Review, said: “The closer they keep the design to the original, the less the ship will be modern. … On the other hand, if they incorporate too many modern features, such as the gadgets Queen Mary 2 has, then the problem is it wouldn’t be Titanic II.”

So Titanic II is fraught with challenges before it even hits the water. But the grandest problem I see with this throwback to an earlier era, is with the appeal of such a ship all together.

Beyond the initial “ohs” and “ahs,” why would anyone want to drop what will likely be a hefty sum on such a trip?

After the Costa Concordia fiasco last January, the big cruise ship industry anticipated a possible shift for folks to rent yacht time instead. Given the massive realm for human error inherent to such a large ship, Titanic II might be history based mostly on the original’s history for human error.

As I said, I do not advocate superstition, but sometimes that little voice in the back of your head might be worth considering.

I really do not understand why someone would want to build another Titanic, unless they were an extreme Cameron fan; maybe Palmer is. But then, I also do not understand half of what appeals to the general public, so who knows.

What I do know is after the first presidential debate, news about another Titanic is something I would gladly discuss for a while, rather than analyzing our potential future presidents’ poor attempts at verbal sparring while waiting for the next bout.