Chinese firm Seven Star to build full-size Titanic replica and sink it
Work has begun on the world's first full-scale replica of the Titanic, it can be revealed.
A Chinese State-run shipbuilder began assembling parts for the replica last weekend and expects to complete the project in 26 months - the same amount of time it took Harland and Wolff to build the original at the Belfast shipyard over 100 years ago.
Seven Star Energy Investment says the new ship will be a virtual carbon copy of the ill-fated White Star Line vessel, which sank on its maiden voyage in 1912 with the loss of more than 1,500 passengers and crew.
Unlike its predecessor, however, the £110m Titanic replica will never grace Belfast, Southampton or the Atlantic Ocean.
Instead, it will be permanently docked 900 miles inland, the centrepiece of a theme park on the River Qi in China's landlocked Sichuan Province.
Seven Star believes its investment will result in the theme park becoming one of the world's biggest tourist attractions - especially as it has been designed to replicate the original liner's fatal collision with an iceberg in the north Atlantic.
At the launch of the project in January of last year, Seven Star CEO Su Shaojun outlined what visitors could expect.
"When the ship hits the iceberg, it will shake, it will tumble," he said.
"It will capsize and water will come in. We will let people experience water coming in using sound and light effects, and LED light effects. They will think: 'The water will drown me. I must escape for my life.'"
Critics of the project believe this aspect of it could be in extremely poor taste.
The chairman of the Belfast Titanic Committee, Dr Aidan McMichael, said any commemoration should be done sensitively,
"Given China's remoteness from the story there remains a risk that it would be sensationalised," he said. "But if used to interpret the story, then that would be acceptable."
English actor Bernard Hill, who played the Titanic's controversial captain Edward Smith in the movie, said there would be no sensationalism in practice.
He added: "It's been approached in a very delicate and a very sensitive way and they're very aware of the extent of the disaster in 1912. I don't think it will belittle that disaster."
The Chinese project is not to be confused with Australian tycoon Clive Palmer's plans for a seaworthy replica Titanic, which appear to have run aground.
The £250m 'Titanic II' was also due to be built in China and scheduled to set sail in 2016, cruising from Southampton to New York along the route of the Harland and Wolff-constructed original.
Mr Palmer first announced the idea in April 2012, but workers at China's CSC Jinling shipyard say very little has happened since.