The order was placed 18 June 1928, and construction began almost immediately. The work was slowed by a dispute over powerplant; Lord Kylsant who controlled the White Star Line wanted to use diesel-electric instead of the traditional steam power. White Star proposed having over 40 diesel generator sets driving four propellers through geared electric motors. Harland & Wolff was reluctant to adopt this system and by the time all parties had settled on the use of diesel, the Great Depression was underway and hitting the shipping business.
Further work on the Oceanic was postponed, and later cancelled due to the collapse of the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company, owners of the White Star Line, as a result of the financial problems of Sir Owen Philips, Lord Kylsant. The Royal Mail Case, as it was known, led to the imprisonment and loss of title of Owen Philips, also substantial changes in accounting and auditing practice. Loans backed by the governments of England and Northern Ireland intended for the construction of the Oceanic were diverted to the construction of the last two ships built for White Star, the RMS Britannic and her near twin sister, the RMS Georgic.
Based on original plans, the ship would have measured 60-80,000 tons, be 1,010 feet long and 120 feet wide, and have three funnels, making her appear like a larger version of the MV Britannic with her flatter front superstructure than the Georgic which is curved. Some maritime experts believe that she would have been completed as a ship of about 80,000 tons, roughly the size of her rivals SS Normandie and RMS Queen Mary, along with powerful engines which would have enabled the ship to possibly gain the Blue Riband record for speed.