Rotterdam could dismantle iconic bridge to make way for Jeff Bezos' €430m yacht

Barges docked on the Rotterdam Koningshaven waterway with the "De Hef" bridge in the background
Barges docked on the Rotterdam Koningshaven waterway with the "De Hef" bridge in the background Copyright SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP
By Euronews with EFE
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The masts on the Amazon founder's boat are too high to pass under the bridge.


The Dutch municipality of Rotterdam will dismantle its iconic De Hef Bridge so that a yacht purchased by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos can pass.

The decision sparked controversy since the city council promised not to touch this national monument after its restoration in 2017.

"The municipality of Rotterdam has received a request from a regional shipbuilder to temporarily lift the centre section from the bridge De Hef this summer," city manager Netty Kros told Euronews.

The shipbuilding company explained that the height of the ship's masts makes it impossible for the yacht to otherwise leave Rotterdam, the authorities explained.

"The ship can pass every bridge, because the bridges that the ship has to pass can be opened, except De Hef," Kros explained.

After the ship passes through, the centre section will immediately be put back in place.

But the required permit has not yet been applied for by the shipbuilder, the Rotterdam municipality official said.

"After submitting the licence application, it will be assessed on a number of points," Kros explained, such as "economic importance, possible environmental nuisance, financial consequences and risk for the preservation of the monument's structure".

Plans will only be made in case of a positive decision, Kros pointed out.

But the president of the Rotterdam Historical Society Ton Wesselink told Spanish news agency EFE on Thursday that the city council has already authorised the dismantling of the bridge and, although "the risk of damage to the structure can be reduced to almost zero because the work will be done by professional people, the risk will always be there".

The De Hef bridge is a historical monument — a rarity in the city that suffered significant damage in World War II.

"We don't have many historic buildings in Rotterdam. Many monuments were lost during the war, and we like this bridge very much. It has been restored a few years ago and the promise was made not to touch it, so it is not understandable that now, just because a ship wants to pass, we have to dismantle it," Wesselink said.

Bezos to cover the costs of De Hef's dismantling

Bezos, considered to be the richest man in the world, commissioned a Dutch company to build a giant yacht that will have three masts, making it too tall to pass under the bridge, which led the company to ask the municipality to dismantle the central structure. Bezos himself will cover the costs.

The bridge, constructed in 1878, was also severely damaged in a bombing attack in the 1940s and was one of the first structures in the city to be restored after the war.

When the bridge was closed to rail traffic in 1993, the city scrapped a plan to demolish it due to strong resistance from Rotterdam residents.

Marcel Walravens, who is in charge of De Hef, told the local newspaper Rijnmond that the shipbuilder's request was granted because "it affects the passage of a ship with … high masts". He also stated that on other bridges, "you can press a button and they open, but that is not possible with De Hef because it has a maximum height".

According to him, an alternative solution — to only partially finish the ship in the area where it is being built in the municipality of Alblasserdam, in the west of the Netherlands, to move it through De Hef and then finish it somewhere else — it is not "practical".

The ship is estimated to be worth €430 million and, at 127 metres long, will be the largest sailing yacht in the world.


Walravens underlined that the economic interest of the region was considered in agreeing to its construction, since "from a financial and employment maintenance perspective, this project is very important".

He recalled that "Rotterdam was declared the maritime capital of Europe, and shipbuilding and related activity is an important pillar [of the industry]".

The plan is to restore the central part of the bridge after the yacht passes through.

Walravens also recalled that the municipality promised not to dismantle the structure again after a large-scale restoration was conducted in 2017.

It is not clear when these tasks will be carried out, nor how the bridge will be dismantled, but "the preparation will take about a week, there are a lot of cables in De Hef and as soon as you remove the first one, nothing works anymore". Wesselink believes the bridge disassembly will take place sometime this summer.


The hope is to remove the central part of the bridge in a matter of days "and hopefully" put everything back in place within a week.

"Hopefully Bezos will pay the municipality enough money so that we can invest it in maintaining our national heritage. These things just can't be done," Wesselink lamented.

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