Friday 01 July 2022

‘A bridge too far’: local anger at dismantling of historic bridge for Bezos boat

The Hef is an iconic part of Rotterdam’s skyline. Photo: elm3r via Wikimedia Commons

The Rotterdam branch of political party GroenLinks has called an emergency council debate over the fact that an iconic bridge will be temporarily taken apart to allow passage for a mega-yacht for Amazon founder and billionaire Jeff Bezos.

The news that a section of national monument De Hef would be dismantled (and then put together again) to allow passage for the 127m long, three-masted, aluminium and steel schooner swiftly voyaged the world.

But the story, broken on Wednesday by local broadcaster Rijnmond, sparked fury amongst history lovers, the Dutch public and some local councillors.

GroenLinks councillor Stephan Leewis told Rijnmond that he took a dim view of the permission, particularly in the light of Amazon personnel policies and tax and regulation avoidance battles.

‘Now, we have to break apart our beautiful listed monument?’ he reportedly said, in calling an emergency debate. ‘This really is a bridge too far.’

Heritage

According to Dutch media, next week Rotterdam city council will debate the planning permission given to dismantle the middle section of the 1927 bridge, and reconstruct it – reportedly, at the cost of shipbuilder Oceanco and Bezos.

Project leader at Rotterdam city council Marcel Walravens previously defended the decision as a pragmatic one. ‘It is about a ship with high masts which cannot pass through the bridge. The only alternative is to take out the middle section,’ he told Rijnmond.

Walravens hoped that with proper preparation, the middle section of the bridge would only be removed for a day and pointed out the economic and jobs benefit to the region, plus the boost to its international shipbuilding reputation.

However, some history experts were unimpressed. ‘Jobs are important, but there are limits with what you can and should do with our industrial heritage,’ said Ton Wesselink of the local history society Historisch Genootschap Roterodamum to Rijnmond.

‘Inequality’

On social media, commentators also pointed out the apparent inconsistency in strict, Dutch listed building policy and the privilege apparently afforded to an American billionaire to take apart a bridge which the council had previously promised would no longer be touched.

On social media, the story inspired humorous comment as well as outrage, particularly in the light of the bridge’s historical destruction during the 1940 Nazi bombardment. A commenter called ‘Marky Mark’ suggested: ‘Can’t we simply dismantle Jeff Bezos and have Rotterdam pass through him?’

Jeroen Stet commented: ‘Mega-yachts are a symbol of greed, inequality, and all that is bad about capitalism and the impact it has on the world. If you think you need something like this, it says a lot about you.’

Ophef

Others pointed out that the bridge would be repaired again, and that the shipyard was a huge local employer. Meanwhile, Paul Peeters, podcast host at DutchNews.nl, noted that this was a scandal, or ophef, with a ring about it: ‘De Hef/Jeff-ophef.’

At 127 metres long, Bezos’ yacht is set to be the largest sailing yacht in the world when delivered at some point this year, according to Boat International. It is reportedly being moved from one shipyard to another for final fitting.

A spokesman for Rotterdam council told DutchNews.nl. ‘The municipality of Rotterdam only gives permission to the maritime sector to take a ship to sea. The municipality does not build ships, so we have no further information about this.’

DutchNews.nl has contacted Oceanco for a comment.

Thank you for donating to DutchNews.nl

The DutchNews.nl team would like to thank all the generous readers who have made a donation in recent weeks. Your financial support has helped us to expand our coverage of the coronavirus crisis into the evenings and weekends and make sure you are kept up to date with the latest developments.

DutchNews.nl has been free for 14 years, but without the financial backing of our readers, we would not be able to provide you with fair and accurate news and features about all things Dutch. Your contributions make this possible.

If you have not yet made a donation, but would like to, you can do so via Ideal, credit card or Paypal.