Titanic centre launches N.Ireland tourism drive

Fri Mar 30, 2012 1:32pm EDT
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By Ian Graham

BELFAST (Reuters) - Two flares fired into the morning sky above Belfast on Saturday will mark the opening of a 97-million pound ($154 million) Titanic centre at the site of its launch, telling the story of the doomed liner which sank 100 years ago.

Titanic Belfast is one of a number of signature projects designed to generate tourism in Northern Ireland, better known for decades as a region of violence and sectarian strife.

Some 100,000 people from 20 countries have booked tickets in advance to visit the showcase building constructed beside the slipway from which the liner was launched by the Harland and Wolff shipyard a century ago.

Shaped like the vessel's hull - and the same height - the center is covered in 3,000 aluminum panels and its six floors containing nine galleries telling the story of the doomed steamship and the Belfast of the early 1900s.

"We're letting the building speak for itself, with a simple ceremony, marked by the firing of two flares - as was the case when Titanic was launched," said Tim Husbands, Titanic Belfast's CEO.

There is also an interactive ride and film footage of the wreck of Titanic in its final resting place 3,784 meters (yards) below the Atlantic - some of it never seen before.

Near to the building stands the Harland and Wolff Drawing Office where the Titanic's plans were drawn.

In the dock is Titanic's refurbished tender, the SS Nomadic, which ferried passengers from the French port of Cherbourg to the Titanic and sister ship Olympic.   Continued...

Images of people are projected on a wall in a replica first class cabin room in the Titanic Belfast building in Belfast, Northern Ireland March 27, 2012. REUTERS/David Moir