MINING tycoon Clive Palmer said today it was full steam ahead for his plan to build a 21st century version of the Titanic, with 20,000 people expressing interest in the maiden voyage.
There was scepticism when the self-made mining billionaire announced his ambitious plans in April to construct Titanic II with exactly the same dimensions as its ill-fated predecessor, which sank 100 years ago.
But Mr Palmer today said one of the world's leading ship design and marine engineering companies had now been commissioned to assist with the project.
Finnish-based Deltamarin, which has offices worldwide, will undertake a full review to ensure the vessel will be compliant with all current safety and construction regulations.
It will also ensure that the design criteria laid down by Blue Star Line, which Palmer established, are met.
The work carried out by Deltamarin will enable China's CSC Jinling Shipyard to begin construction of the passenger liner, which will be 270 metres long, 53 metres high and weigh 40,000 tonnes.
It will have 840 rooms and nine decks.
Mr Palmer said there had been keen international interest from passengers wanting to be on board the maiden commercial voyage scheduled for 2016 between England and North America.
"More than 20,000 people have registered on Blue Star Line's website expressing an interest in receiving regular updates from us or requesting information on how to secure bookings for Titanic II's maiden voyage," he said.
"Titanic II will be a regular feature on the transatlantic route between the UK and USA," Palmer added.
"This magnificent vessel is being constructed in memory of the heroic people who served on the first ship, as well as the passengers who sadly shared their fate."
Titanic sank on April 15, 1912 after striking an iceberg on its first voyage, from Southampton to New York, killing more than 1500 passengers and crew. The original liner was built in Belfast.