The construction of a 1.1 billion yuan (US$165 million) replica of the original RMS Titanic is now gaining steam in China. Building the Titanic II on the bank of a tributary of the Yangtze River in the western landlocked province of Sichuan has not been all plain sailing, however, after the project was hit by a financial dispute which delayed the inauguration for several years.

The full-scale reconstruction of the original was built using the Titanic‘s blueprints and was bankrolled by the little-known China Seven Star Energy Investment Company headquartered in the province.

But the exact lookalike will never hit the ocean to trace the Europe-America route of her doomed namesake. Rather, it will be moored permanently in a reservoir in Sichuan as a centerpiece of a resort development there, which is expected to reel in hundreds of thousands of visitors per year.

A 2014 file photo shows English actor Bernard Hill, who played the Titanic’s captain Edward Smith in the 1997 film, attending a press conference announcing the launch of the remake project. Photo: Reuters
The design of the Grand Staircase of the Titanic II. Photo: China News Service
An aerial photo of the construction of the replica in China’s Sichuan province. Photo: Weibo
An artist’s impression of the replica and theme park. Photo: Handout

Measuring 269 meters long and 28 meters wide, the made-in-China model will mimic every aspect of the grandeur and cabin layout of the original sunken cruise liner built in Belfast, from the size to the decorations to the original Grand Staircase to even the dinner menu, according to Chinese papers.

There are even mock-ups of boilers and reciprocating steam engines. The remake was made by welding 50,000 tonnes of steel together.

The theme park had initially planned to include a high-tech simulator to let tourists “relive the moment” when the Titanic sideswiped a monster iceberg in the frigid Atlantic while en route to New York from Southampton on April 12, 1912.

But the Sichuan investor had reportedly scrapped the plan as such re-enactment of one of the biggest maritime tragedies in history where more than 1,500 lives perished could be too real and too upsetting. The entire attraction near provincial capital Chengdu will certainly revive the Titanic craze in China when it is open by the end of the year.

The Titanic remains a subject of immense fascination for many in China, including the lasting cult-following of James Cameron’s 1997 epic romance blockbuster starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio.

Cameron once built a 90% scale replica vessel for filming purposes, but no full-size model has ever been built.