A boat too big to fit under a 131 ft clearance
A curious story is developing around Jeff Bezos’ yacht called Y721 (721 is a form of shorthand typically used in texts to say “I love you”).
The tech billionaire’s $500 million superyacht Y721, which is soon to be completed and set sail to sea, is making headlines because it is too tall to fit underneath the historic Koningshaven Bridge in Rotterdam. The bridge’s 40 meters / 131-foot clearance is not high enough for the yacht’s trio of masts to fit through.
The bridge is located 10.4 miles (16,7 km) away from where the ship was built in Alblasserdam.
A bridge with protected status and rare peregrine falcons
The Koningshaven Bridge is nicknamed the Hef by Rotterdammers, who are very fond of this iconic building. The Hef is now a national monument and serves as a breeding ground for peregrine falcons, a protected and once-endangered bird species. In 1993 the bridge avoided demolition after widespread protests from Rotterdam residents.
The bridge dates back to 1879 and has had a very colorful history. The bridge was last renovated in 2017, which lasted three years between 2014 and 2017. The council pledged that it would never be dismantled again.
City officials willing to make allowances for a billionaire
The bridge has an officially protected status; however it seems Jeff Bezos and Oceanco (the builders of the yacht) have managed to successfully arrange with city officials to arrange through way for their boat, which means that the bridge will have to be dismantled and rebuilt, and not for the first time in its history. The Rotterdam authorities are willing to dismantle and rebuild the bridge at Jeff Bezos’ expense.
It’s not clear why the Oceanco shipyard has a history of building boats for the super-wealthy didn’t see this as an issue that would come up. The mast height and draft of Y721 were known before construction. The primary way for the company’s boats to leave the Netherlands by water is via Rotterdam, which is 16.8km/10.4 miles down the river from them.
An observer of Google Maps may notice that the river by Oceanco shipyard also flows through Dordrecht and eventually connects to the sea. Whether going via Rotterdam or Dordrecht, both directions of the river loop around to the sea and have several bridges. Reporters observing the situation say the only route out to sea is past the Koningshaven Bridge. The Koningshaven Bridge is the first challenge the Y721 will meet.
Annoyed residents and an angry historian
It seems many residents are angered by the idea of their bridge being dismantled, if only for a short period. Perhaps because to these residents, it seems doubtful to them that people such as Bezo’s can flaunt their wealth and temporarily deconstruct the Netherland’s national heritage.
Ton Wesselink of the local history society Historisch Genootschap Roterodamum, is not happy. He says, ‘Jobs are important, but there are limits with what you can and should do with our industrial heritage,‘
Project leader Marcel Walravens hopes that ‘with proper preparation, the middle section of the bridge will be removed for just one day.’ The official dealing with the matter is taking a pragmatic approach, ‘It is about a ship with high masts which cannot pass through the bridge. The only alternative is to take out the middle section,’
The Koningshave Bridge may be the first challenge that Y721 encounters on its voyage. Perhaps one day, local historians will be proud that the dismantling of it to allow the Y721 to pass through is another event that marks the bridge’s rich history.
An interesting history
Further information on the bridge’s incredible history can be found on Wikipedia
- 1870s bridge developed from the river banks
- 1918 being a major swing bridge obstruction causing a German ship Kandelfels to collide with the peer
- 1927 opened October 31 after redesign by engineer Pieter Joosting
- 1928 Joris Ivens made an avant-garde film about De Hef, entitled De Brug.
- 1933, Lou Vlasblom dived from the lift bridge. Two weeks later, Jan Tabbernee jumped from a point six meters higher than that of Vlasblom. Tabbernee landed wrong and did not survive the dive.
- 1940, May the 14th , the bridge was heavily damaged during the bombing of Rotterdam . To make train traffic possible again, it was one of the first works of art in the destroyed city to be restored
- 1978, May the 10th, the lift bridge was struck by the Nedlloyd Bahrain during tow from the Van der Giessen-de Noord shipyard , where the ship was built, to Wilton-Fijenoord . Rail traffic was blocked for 14 days.
- 1985 Arij de Boode and Pieter van Oudheusden wrote De Hef, biography of a railway bridge (foreword by Joris Ivens ).
Feature image credit: Koninginnebrug en De Hef by Joop van Houdt, https://beeldbank.rws.nl, Rijkswaterstaat