The city of Rotterdam is planning to disassemble part of a historic bridge in order to make way for the delivery of a pleasure craft, the new superyacht ordered by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. 

Bezos’ as-yet-unnamed vessel will be the largest sailing yacht in operation and the largest ever built at Oceanco, the Rotterdam shipyard that is now finishing its construction. When complete, it will have an air draft that is too high to get through the historic Koningshaven Bridge, known locally as De Hef. 

Though its origin dates back to 1878, the bridge  opened in 1927. It was heavily damaged in May 1940 during the bombing of Rotterdam, but it was one of the first parts of the city to be restored during the postwar reconstruction. In 1993, the bridge lost its function as a river crossing for train traffic because of the advent of a new tunnel. A plan to demolish De Hef encountered so much resistance that it was abandoned, and the bridge has been a monument ever since. It was restored to ensure its longevity in 2017. 

The yard has decided not to ship the yacht’s hull past the bridge without first stepping the masts, and it would prefer to complete all work on site. It has the support of Rotterdam’s municipal government, which would prefer to keep the employment and economic activity of the yacht’s construction in town. This means that the bridge’s center section will have to be removed for a day. 

“This mainly concerns the passage of a ship with high masts through De Hef. At the Koninginnebrug we can press a button and it opens. That is not possible here, because De Hef has a maximum height. The only alternative is to take out the middle part,” project leader Marcel Walravens told Rijnmond.

As the bridge is maintained as a monument, the operation should not significantly interrupt traffic. The shipyard and its customer are expected to pay for the expense of removing and reinstalling the center section. 

Jeff Bezos is the world’s second-richest person, and the operation to remove a bridge for his personal benefit has raised questions among Rotterdam’s inhabitants about equity – particularly given the allegations about his company’s labor practices. A small protest is planned at the bridge site for the day of the transit, according to the New York Times.  

Images and video of Bezos’ yacht under construction – including its towering masts – have been obtained by the fan site Dutch Yachting, and may be seen below.

The sailing yacht is capable of low-emissions operation, but Bezos has also ordered a conventionally-powered support vessel to accompany its voyages. This 250-foot, OSV-style workboat is itself as large as a megayacht.

Source: the Maritime Executive