The ultimate sequel: plans to build a new Titanic

A SWISS-US partnership, hoping to cash in on the global mania generated by the film Titanic, says it has plans to build a full-size replica of the doomed ship in time for an Atlantic crossing on 15 April 2002, the 90th anniversary of the disaster.

Titanic II will purportedly be equipped with state-of-the art technology designed, among other things, to detect icebergs.

"It cannot sink," said Walter Navratil, president of the Swiss-based development company White Star Line Ltd - named after the company which operated the original ship - in yesterday's New York Post.

Mr Navratil is also quoted as saying that the partners want the project to be the "crowning glory of the Titanic euphoria".

He said that the new vessel would follow the original Titanic's voyage, from Southampton to New York, pausing respectfully at the precise point where it sank, 560 miles off the coast of Newfoundland. Round-trip tickets will cost between $10,000 and $100,000 (pounds 6,000-60,200). After the inaugural sail the ship will serve as a pleasure cruiser.

Whether the deal comes off remains to be seen. First, as the project's US partner, the Titanic Development Corp, of Las Vegas, has acknowledged, not all the investors that will be required are yet on board.

Second, it could be that four years from now Titanic fever will have abated. Figures in yesterday showed that the film has finally been knocked off the top spot in the US box-office list, after 15 weeks at number one.

And third, Harland and Wolff, the Belfast-based shipbuilders which holds the ship's original plans, has not yet said whether it would allow a new version of the Titanic to be built.

The partners insist that they are deadly serious, however, and plan to meet with representatives at the Belfast shipyard soon.

The total cost of building a new ship is estimated at between $400-$600m (pounds 240m-pounds 360m).