Rotterdam bridge taken apart to let through Jeff Bezos pleasure yacht
Rotterdam will partly dismantle its iconic Koningshaven Bridge, better known as "De Hef" among locals, so that a new pleasure yacht for Jeff Bezos can pass through it, Rijnmond reports. This to the annoyance of the Rotterdam Historical Society, which pointed out that the municipality promised never to dismantle the bridge again after its restoration finished in 2017.
Former Amazon CEO and the richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos commissioned Oceano in Alblasserdam to build him a gigantic pleasure yacht. The three-masted ship will be so large that it cannot pass under De Heff, despite the bridge's 40 meters clearance. The shipbuilder, therefore, approached the municipality of Rotterdam and asked that the bridge be temporarily dismantled. Oceano and Bezos will reimburse the costs.
The municipality appears willing to grant this request, much to the annoyance of Ton Wesselink of the Rotterdam Historical Society. "Employment is important, but there are limits to what you can and may do to our heritage," he said to Rijnmond.
Marcel Walravens, the point of contact within the municipality on De Hef-related matters, told the broadcaster that the city agreed to the shipbuilder's request due to simple pragmatics. "This mainly concerns the passage of a ship with high masts through De Hef. At the Koningenne Bridge, we can press a button, and it opens. That's not possible here because De Hef has a maximum height. The only alternative is to take out the middle part," he said. According to him, it is impractical to partially finish the ship, move it through De Hef, and then finish it somewhere else.
The municipality also considered the region's economic interest when granting the request, Walravens said. "From an economic perspective and maintaining employment, the municipality considers this a very important project," he said. "In addition, Rotterdam has also been declared the maritime capital of Europe. Shipbuilding and activity within that sector are therefore an important pillar of the municipality."
He added that the city wouldn't change anything about the bridge. The middle part will be restored after the ship passes. According to Walravens, the municipality's promise not to mess with De Hef again is also a bit more nuanced. "Never say never. I see it as using the resources you have as efficiently as possible."
The municipality is still working out exactly when and how the bridge will be dismantled. "As the plans look now, the preparation will take about a week. There are a lot of cables on De Hef, and as soon as you remove the first one, it no longer works. After that week, we remove the middle part, and with a bit of luck, we will have it back a day later. After that it will take another week to put everything back in place," Walravens explained to Rijnmond.
De Hef dates from 1878. It was heavily damaged during the bombing of 1940 and afterward was one of the first buildings in the city to be restored. In 1993, the bridge lost its function as a river crossing for train traffic between Breda and Rotterdam due to the arrival of the Willemspoort tunnel. The city quickly scrapped a plan to demolish the bridge due to fierce resistance from city residents. Since then, the bridge has been a national monument.