Historic Rotterdam rail bridge won't be dismantled for Bezos megayacht after all

Water Under the Bridge?

Historic Rotterdam rail bridge won't be dismantled for Bezos megayacht after all

Rotterdam’s historic De Hef. (GraphyArchy/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0)

This past February, Dutch media reported on potential plans to temporarily deconstruct a portion of Rotterdam’s Koningshavenbrug, a historic monument-designated railway lift bridge locally known as De Hef (The Lift), so that a $500 million Jeff Bezos-owned megayacht could sail without obstruction from the shipyard where the 416-foot-long vessel was built to the North Sea. Not surprisingly, the news sparked considerable public backlash (and a planned rotten egg-tossing event) from Rotterdam residents, politicians, and Dutch historians. Amid the uproar, Rotterdam Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb jumped into the fray to make clear that the dismantling of De Hef’s middle section was far from a done deal despite earlier reports that city officials had agreed to the move.

Now, as reported by the New York Times and other outlets, Dutch-based, Omani-owned custom yacht builder Oceanco, which operates out of a shipyard in the municipality of Alblasserdam, has scrapped the plan (for now) and will not apply for a permit that would set the controversial dismantling scheme into motion. Bloomberg reported Vincent Karremans, a deputy mayor for public works and mobility, as saying in a statement that Oceanco will “for the time being not request the environmental permit for the removal of the bridge.”

It’s unclear how exactly the Bezos megayacht—known as Y721, the boat, when christened, will be the largest sailing yacht in the world—will circumvent De Hef and leave Rotterdam’s sprawling port on its journey to the open sea. Oceanco and Amazon did not respond to the Times’ requests for further information regarding potential next steps.

As previously noted by AN, the costs of dismantling the bridge would have been fully covered by Oceanco and Bezos; the entire process of removing the middle section of the steel-girded landmark, which is currently not in active use, and then restoring would have taken a day or so. The 95-year-old De Hef is the only bridge that Y721 would not have been capable of clearing on its brief but logistically complex voyage through Rotterdam en route to the ocean.

Although Oceanco and Amazon remain quiet as to why permits will not be pursued and details about when and how the megayacht will now leave Rotterdam, the Times pointed out that Dutch newspaper Trouw reported last month that Oceanco had decided not to apply for permits “out of fear of vandalism and threats.” Rotterdam, home to the largest seaport in Europe, is a major destination for superyachts; yacht construction is a vital industry for the city with Oceanco being just one of several builders of super-sized luxury yachts based at and around the port.

Spanning the Nieuwe Maas to connect the Feijenoord district and Noordereiland (North Island), De Hef first opened in 1927 as the first lift bridge in the Netherlands and was subsequently restored after the May 14, 1940, bombardment of Rotterdam by German forces. (De Hef is technically the second bridge built at the site; preceding it was a collision-prone swing bridge built in 1877.)

Per, the iconic bridge, which carried train traffic up until 1993 when tunnels opened in the Nieuwe Maas, underwent a significant renovation in 2017 that Rotterdam council members pledged would be the final time that De Hef would be deconstructed and put back together.

“We’re happy it’s not happening,” Marvin Biljoen, a councilman for GroenLinks, the Dutch Green Party, told the Times in reaction to the latest development. “The bridge is a national monument, which shouldn’t be altered too much. That you could still do that with money anyway bothers us.”