FIRST dismissed out of hand as an eccentric billionaire’s fantasy, plans to build a replica of Southampton ’s illfated liner, Titanic , have taken a step closer to reality.

If the vessel is built the Australian mining magnate behind the plan, Clive Palmer, says Titanic II will be sailing up Southampton Water in 2016.

However there is still deep scepticism that this ambitious project will never set sail.

Southampton shipping historian, Terry Yarwood, said: “Frankly I do not think there will be the desire to travel on a vessel named, Titanic, so inextricably linked to the most famous of shipping disasters.

“Many believe the name is jinxed.”

But the Queensland businessman, who made headlines when he announced plans to construct a modern-day Titanic, featuring 840 cabins, in April this year, is convinced his idea will be a winner.

Mr Palmer has now caused further controversy, when he revealed detailed drawings and blueprints of the ship, by banning pensioners from the proposed vessel’s casino.

He said it would be restricted to first class passengers, to ensure those who could not afford to lose money would not be allowed to enter.

Mr Palmer said: “There’ll be some sort of screening process, and as we will be in international waters we’ll probably be able to stop pensioners from entering.’’ Mr Palmer has signed a letter of intent with a Chinese shipyard and commissioned a number of ship design and marine engineering companies to ensure the planned ship will be compliant with all current safety and construction regulations.

Slightly wider than the original Titanic to improve “stability’’, the new 40,000-ton ship would feature a number of key differences including the addition of a “safety deck’’ with “proper lifeboats’’.