July 7, 2022
A resistance force has mobilised in the Dutch city of Rotterdam. Threats of crowds egging Jeff Bezos’ new superyacht have seemingly disrupted Oceanco’s plan to temporarily dismantle a historic bridge to allow the yacht to pass. It now seems that the yacht will have to find another route to take.
Bezos’s gigantic, 430-million-euro ($485 million) sailing yacht with its 40m high trio of masts is too big for the iconic Koningshaven Bridge, which dates from 1878.
The bridge, known to Rotterdammers as De Hef, was renovated in 2017 and the council pledged at the time it would never be dismantled again, says Dutch media.
Oceanco, the yacht’s builder, had seemingly asked the Dutch city to temporarily remove the bridge, with the company and billionaire having offered to pay for the work. But now, Trouw reports that the Dutch shipbuilder has informed the municipality of Rotterdam that it is cancelling its plans (for the time being).
Trouw says Oceanco is shocked by the social unrest and says shipyard employees feel threatened and the company fears vandalism. Trouw says it drew this conclusion as in an appeal under the Government Information (Public Access) Act to uncover documents about the bridge dismantling, the municipality of Rotterdam cited the threats and the fear of vandalism as an argument not to make some of the documents public.
There has been discussion for years at official and political level about dismantling the monumental bridge for superyachts, says Trouw.
Oceanco and its industry association have seemingly been lobbying for a long time to make the passage easier. In December 2017 there was already political support from the three responsible aldermen for the dismantling of De Hef, partly because of its importance for employment, with the costs and risks having to be borne by the shipyard.
Trouw says an agreement has now been drawn up with shipyards in the Rotterdam region. The intention is that, should De Hef be dismantled, it will go out twice a year for a maximum of three weeks. First, a permit must be applied for.
At the time the news broke about Bezos’ yacht, locals, politicians and historians all expressed their concerns about the dismantling plan. GroenLinks councillor Stephan Leewis, for example, told Rijnmond at the end of 2021 that he took a dim view of the permission, particularly in the light of Amazon personnel policies and tax and regulation avoidance battles, says Dutch News.
“Now, we have to break apart our beautiful, listed monument?” he reportedly said, in calling an emergency debate. “This really is a bridge too far.”
On social media, commentators also pointed out the apparent inconsistency in strict, Dutch listed building policy and the privilege apparently afforded to an American billionaire to take apart a bridge which the council had previously promised would no longer be touched.
The Daily Mail says more than 3,900 people were ‘interested’ in the Facebook event calling for Rotterdam residents to throw rotten eggs at Bezos’ new yacht.
The event was organised by Pablo Strörmann and reads: ‘Take a box of (rotten) eggs with you and let’s throw them en masse at Jeff’s superyacht when it sails through De Hef in Rotterdam.
‘Rotterdam was built from the rubble by the people of Rotterdam, and we don’t just take that apart for the phallus symbol of a megalomaniac billionaire. Not without a fight.’
Oceanco has confirmed to Rotterdam city officials that it will cancel the current plans for removing the bridge, and will look at other options. As of yet, there’s been no confirmation on how Bezos will eventually get his superyacht out to sea.
Back in February 2022, the project leader on Bezos’ superyacht construction, Marcel Walravens said it wouldn’t be practical to finish the project elsewhere which is why he, Oceanco and Bezos initially agreed that the De Huf needed to be dismantled, rather than moving the superyacht prior to its completion.
“If you carry out a big job somewhere, you want all your tools in that place. Otherwise you have to go back and forth constantly. In addition, this is such a large project that there are hardly any locations where this work is finished.
“From an economic perspective and maintaining employment, the municipality considers this a very important project. Rotterdam has also been declared the maritime capital of Europe.”
Walravens also told DutchNews.nl in February that dismantling “the middle section” of the De Huf once Bezos’ superyacht is built and ready for open waters is the only way the superyacht will be able to get out.
“It is about a ship with high masts which cannot pass through the bridge. The only alternative is to take out the middle section.”
– Courtesy Marine Industry News