In Rotterdam, the town hall wants to dismantle a bridge to pass Jeff Bezos’ giant sailboat

The object of contention is a gigantic three-master which is to be launched this summer. For the moment it is being finalized in shipyards in the suburbs of Rotterdam. With 127 meters long, several bridges, it is announced as one of the most prestigious and one of the largest sailing ships in the world. One of the most expensive too: 430 million euros according to the Dutch press. An extraordinary ship in the image of its owner, Jeff Bezos, one of the ten biggest fortunes on the planet.

To reach the North Sea, this boat must pass under an old industrial bridge whose deck rises “only” 40 meters. It is high. But still not enough. According to the Dutch television channel Rijnmond, the builder, Oceanco, therefore asked the town hall to temporarily dismantle the structure to remove the central part, let the boat pass, and rebuild. By paying all the costs of course (we do not know the amount of the contract). According to the Rijmond chain, which unveiled the case, the municipality is in favor of it.

And yet it is a historical work: the Koningshavenbrug (“bridge of the royal port”, better known in Rotterdam as “De Hef”) was installed in 1927. It is a huge steel lift bridge, repaired after being bombed during the Second World War, in 1940.

Until 1993, it was used to pass trains over the New Meuse river. When it fell into disuse, the town hall wanted to demolish it: the inhabitants fiercely opposed it. Since then, it has been classified as a national monument, it is a protected building.

In 2017, it was completely renovated at great expense. The municipality had promised never to touch it again. She changed her mind. By explaining that in the end, it’s the easiest thing to do, especially because the boat can’t be transported elsewhere to be finished. And above all, that this shipyard puts a lot of local companies to work in a sector, shipbuilding, which has experienced difficult times in recent years, a sector which remains an essential economic pillar. The other argument is that the work will be very fast, and that in 24 hours it will be possible to remove and replace the central part without damage. Neither seen nor known, basically, not enough to make a big deal out of it.

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Except that this project has aroused virulent reactions. The Rotterdam Historical Society is furious: “Employment is important, yes, but there are limits to what we can do with our heritage“.

A green elected official, Stephan Leewis, asks for an emergency debate at the city council: “Jeff Bezos made his money by structurally cutting staff, evading taxes and dodging regulations, and now we have to demolish a national monument? It’s really going too far“. He asks to see the written agreement negotiated between the builder and the town hall.

The inhabitants of Rotterdam have mixed feelings at the idea of ​​an American billionaire benefiting from certain privileges… If for some the pill is hard to swallow, others prefer to see the glass half full. “Much ado about nothing around Jeff and De Hef“, sums up a user on Twitter…”It’s going a bridge too far“(sic). Why complain about the request of the American billionaire?”It pays well and we have free advertising“. It is “win-win“said another Internet user. An advertisement which the city of Rotterdam, which would have preferred to remain discreet on this affair, would however have gone well.

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