A historic bridge in the Netherlands won’t be dismantled for Jeff Bezos superyacht, for now at least, after an outcry. As reported in the New York Times, Rotterdam is no longer going to take apart a nearly century-old bridge to allow Bezos’ new half-billion-dollar boat to leave its shipyard.
In Netherlands’ second largest city the iconic bridge spans the city’s primary river, the Koningshaven Bridge. The railway bridge is more commonly referred to as De Hef, or the Lift to use the English translation. The descriptive moniker was likely earned because it was the first vertical-lift bridge in the country when it was constructed in 1927.
De Hef has grown in stature and familiarity over the decades to become a landmark in Rotterdam. In 1993, there were plans to abandon the railway line and demolish the bridge. Protests against the proposal were large enough to not only prevent demolition, but also get the bridge protected as a Rijksmonument, a listed national monument. So to no one’s surprise, there was a similar outcry when the bridge was threatened almost three decades later.
Last year, it was revealed that Jeff Bezos had commissioned a half-billion-dollar superyacht from Oceanco, a nearby yacht builder. Rotterdam is Europe’s largest port and there are plenty of shipbuilders across the region. De Hef is also a vertical-lift bridge for a reason. Tall ships further inland need to be able safely traverse the river Nieuwe Maas.
However, Bezos’ superyacht, the Y721, is too large to fit under De Hef. The middle section of the bridge rises to a height of 46.48 m. The Y721 isn’t your run-of-the-mill miniature cruise ship, though. Not only does the ship actually have sails, but it’s also purported to be the second-largest sailing vessel on the planet. The only sailing yacht that’s larger is owned by a Russian oligarch, and is currently in the possession of Italian authorities after being seized in March.
Earlier this year, city officials in Rotterdam told local media that the bridge would be temporarily dismantled to allow the completed superyacht through. The bridge project would have been funded by the shipbuilder Oceanco. This was when a torrential outcry commenced on social media in opposition. The New York Times reported that a Rotterdammer had set up a Facebook event to organise people to egg the Y721 as it passed the dismantled De Hef.
In response, Rotterdam mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb denied previous statements about the potential passage. He even stated that a decision was never made as Oceanco never applied for a permit. Without De Hef’s dismantling, there isn’t a way for the Y721 to reach the open sea from Oceanco.
It should be mentioned that the lift span had been temporarily removed in the mid-2010s for the bridge to be renovated. Span removals shouldn’t be done lightly, though, especially on an almost century old protected bridge as construction accidents do happen. It shouldn’t be assumed that De Hef’s lift span could always be refitted to the rest of the bridge. A win for De Hef, for now.
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