Australian billionaire Clive Palmer’s fully-functioning replica of the Titanic (known as the Titanic 2) will be launched in 2018, two years later than initially planned.

A spokesman for the tycoon said that the project had merely been delayed and not abandoned. Titanic II will look virtually identical to the Belfast-built luxury liner which sank on April 1912 after hitting an iceberg on its maiden voyage, but the ship will have some modern improvements. 

Read more: Northern Ireland and Game of Thrones tours

The ship will be four meters wider in order to meet today’s maritime safety regulations, and the hull will be welded, not riveted, the Belfast Telegraph reports.

"The new Titanic will, of course, have modern evacuation procedures, satellite controls, digital navigation and radar systems and all those things you'd expect on a 21st-century ship," said James McDonald, the global marketing director of Palmer's company Blue Star Line.

Titanic 2, which will offer first, second and third-class tickets, will have nine floors and 840 cabins capable of accommodating 2,400 passengers and 900 crew members, along with Turkish baths, a swimming pool, and gymnasiums. 

The new ship’s maiden voyage will not follow the original Titanic’s planned route from Southampton to New York, but rather will travel from Jiangsu, China, to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, where Blue Star Line has been forging business partnerships.

Read more: Dublin and surrounding areas tours

"We are not looking for investment from Dubai, as it is a project we are funding ourselves, but we have been in contact with a number of companies based in the Emirates who are looking at utilizing opportunities that arise with the project," Mr. McDonald said.

"It is people looking to use the opportunity of the trademark and licensing potential of the project ... We own the Titanic II name and trademark and people are lining up to be part of it."

The state-owned Chinese shipyard CSC Jinling has been contracted to build the replica ship, which was announced by Blue Star in April 2012 on the 100th anniversary of the Titanic sinking.

Some relatives of passengers who died in the tragedy have called plans to build a replica as insensitive, but McDonald said the project had received a largely positive response with Blue Star being inundated with inquiries from potential passengers.

Read more: Is the Titanic II dead in the water? 

* Originally published in 2015.