Historic bridge to be dismantled for Bezos’ superyacht

The Amazon founder reportedly promised to cover the costs of the work

The iconic Koningshaven Bridge, commonly known as De Hef, will be partially dismantled, with its middle section temporarily removed – just so Jeff Bezos’ superyacht can sail through, Dutch media reported on Wednesday. 

The construction of the giant, three-masted leisure vessel, reportedly worth €430 million ($485 million), was commissioned to shipbuilder Oceanco in Alblasserdam, a town in the country’s South Holland province. However, the ship needs to pass through Rotterdam to enter the high seas, and is too large for the 40-meter (131ft) clearance of the bridge.

De Hef dates back to 1878. Its modern version was unveiled in 1927. Heavily damaged by bombs during World War II, the bridge was one of the first structures in the city to be restored. It ceased to function as a railway bridge in 1993 and has remained a national monument.

Oceanco and Bezos were said to have agreed to cover the costs of the work on the bridge. Some locals are, nevertheless, angry that the much-loved bridge will be tampered with, particularly because officials promised that the landmark would never be taken apart after its large-scale, three-year renovation was completed in 2017.

“Employment is important, but there are limits to what you can and may do to our heritage,” Ton Wesselink from the Rotterdam Historical Society said, as cited by broadcaster Rijnmond.  

Others targeted Bezos himself. “This man has made his money by cutting staff, evading taxes, avoiding regulations, and now we have to demolish our beautiful national monument? That’s really a bridge too far,” Stephan Leewis, a local politician from the GroenLinks (GreenLeft) party said, adding that he wants to see the documents showing that Bezos agreed to reimburse the costs. 

Bezos and Amazon have been accused by the media and activists of using legal loopholes to pay lower taxes and of unethical labor practices, especially during the Covid pandemic. The company has denied these allegations.

Marcel Walravens, an official in charge of the works on De Hef, explained that the bridge will be completely restored after the yacht sails through, and no other changes will be made. He said there was no other option to move the yacht.

“From an economic perspective and maintaining employment, the municipality considers this a very important project,” Walravens 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.”

As for the past promise not to tamper with the bridge again, Walravens said: “Never say never. I see it as using the resources you have as efficiently as possible.” He added that the work will begin sometime in the summer.

“In all honesty, I understand the fuss, but if risks lie entirely on Bezos or Oceanco, that’s the end of the matter as far as I’m concerned,” Labor Party (PvdA) politician Dennis Tak said. “It’s, obviously, a strong example of Dutch pride that these yachts are built here. Hardly any ships are built in the Netherlands anymore. All container ships come from Asia these days.”

“I think it’s good that we can still get some money out of Bezos and put it in the region,” Tak said.

Bezos stepped down as CEO of Amazon, the company he founded, last year. In 2021, Forbes magazine listed him as the world’s wealthiest person for the fourth straight year, worth $177 billion.

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