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Bridge Over Troubled Waters: Jeff Bezos’ Yacht To Find Another Path to the Ocean

Bezos yacht, Black Pearl, Jeff Bezos, Oceanco

Jeff Bezos’ yacht, Black Pearl, will have some of the tallest masts ever built when she’s complete.

A resistance force has mobilized in the Dutch city of Rotterdam. Threats of crowds egging Jeff Bezos’ new superyacht, Black Pearl, have seemingly disrupted the vessel’s manufacturer Oceanco’s plan to temporarily dismantle a historic bridge to allow the yacht to pass. It now seems that the yacht will have to find another route to take.

Bezos’s $485 million (430 million Euro) sailing yacht with its 131’ (40 m) high trio of masts is too big for the iconic Koningshaven Bridge, which dates back to 1878. The bridge, known to Rotterdammers as De Hef, was renovated in 2017 and the city council pledged at the time it would never be dismantled again, says Dutch media.

Change in Plans

Oceanco, the 417’ (127.1 m) yacht’s builder, had seemingly asked the Dutch city to temporarily remove the bridge, with the company and Bezos having offered to pay for the work. But now, reports have surfaced that the Dutch shipbuilder has informed the municipality of Rotterdam that it is cancelling its plans (for the time being).

Koningshaven Bridge, De Hef bridge, Rotterdam bridge

The Koningshaven Bridge was designed so the center section can be raised, but it can’t get high enough for Bezos’ yacht to clear and locals don’t want it taken apart.

The local newspaper Trouw says Oceanco is shocked by the social unrest and says shipyard employees feel threatened and company management fears vandalism. The company reportedly arrived at its conclusion in an appeal under the Government Information (Public Access) Act. When considering dismantling the bridge, the municipality of Rotterdam cited the threats and the fear of vandalism as an argument not to make some of the documents public.

Trouw also reported that there has been discussion for years at official and political level about dismantling the monumental bridge for superyachts. Oceanco and its industry association have been lobbying for a long time to make the passage easier. In December 2017, there was already political support from the three responsible aldermen for the dismantling of De Hef, partly because of its importance for employment, with the costs and risks having to be borne by the shipyard.

Public Outcry

Trouw says an agreement has now been drawn up with shipyards in the Rotterdam region. The intention is that, should De Hef be dismantled, it will go out twice a year for a maximum of three weeks. First, a permit must be applied for.

Jeff Bezos, Amazon

Locals have threatened to throw rotten eggs at the new yacht, Black Pearl, that belongs to Jeff Bezos (above).

At the time the news broke about Bezos’ yacht, locals, politicians and historians all expressed their concerns about the dismantling plan. GroenLinks councilor Stephan Leewis, for example, told the TV station Rijnmond at the end of 2021 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, when calling an emergency debate. “This really is a bridge too far.”

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 that the council had previously promised would no longer be touched.

Rotten Eggs

The Daily Mail says more than 3,900 people were “interested” in the Facebook event that called for Rotterdam residents to throw rotten eggs at Bezos’ new yacht.

The event was organized by Pablo Strörmann and the page reads: “‘Take a box of (rotten) eggs with you and let’s throw them en masse at Jeff’s superyacht when it sails through De Hef in Rotterdam.”

Bezos yacht, Black Pearl, Jeff Bezos, Oceanco

Until an alternative plan is made to move her, Black Pearl sits at the Oceanco yard.

It continued, “Rotterdam was built from the rubble by the people of Rotterdam and we don’t just take that apart for the phallus symbol of a megalomaniac billionaire. Not without a fight.”

In response to the threat, Oceanco has confirmed to Rotterdam officials that it will cancel the current plans for removing the bridge. The company will consider other options. As of yet, there’s been no confirmation on how Bezos will eventually get his superyacht out to sea.

Economic Impact

In February 2022, the project leader on Bezos’ superyacht construction, Marcel Walravens, said it wouldn’t be practical to finish the project elsewhere. This is why he, Oceanco and Bezos initially agreed that the De Hef needed to be dismantled, rather than moving the superyacht prior to its completion.

“If you carry out a big job somewhere, you want all your tools in that place,” said Walravens. “Otherwise you have to go back and forth constantly. In addition, this is such a large project that there are hardly any locations where this work is finished.

Bezos yacht, Black Pearl, Jeff Bezos, Oceanco

Oceanco says the problem with moving a boat of this size elsewhere to finish her is that there just aren’t many facilities equipped to handle the task.

He continued, “From an economic perspective and maintaining employment, the municipality considers this a very important project. Rotterdam has also been declared the maritime capital of Europe.”

Walravens also told in February that dismantling “the middle section” of the De Hef once Bezos’ superyacht is built and ready for open waters is the only way the superyacht will be able to get out. “It is about a ship with high masts that cannot pass through the bridge," he said. "The only alternative is to take out the middle section.”