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Dutch vow to egg Jeff Bezos’ $500M yacht if bridge is dismantled to let it pass

Strormann said he was particularly bothered by the double standard. “Normally it’s the other way around: If your ship doesn’t fit under a bridge, you make it smaller. But when you happen to be the richest person on Earth you just ask a municipality to dismantle a monument. That’s ridiculous.”

Bezos now has more money than he knows what to do with after seeing his fortune rise by 70% during the pandemic—from $113 billion in March 2020 to $192.2 billion in October 2021. The Amazon founder provided $5.5 billion in funds for his space company, Blue Origin, to build a rocket and spacecraft that took him and three others on a suborbital flight 66.5 miles above the earth last July to experience four minutes of weightlessness. An October mission took Star Trek star William Shatner to the edge of the final frontier.

Bezos could have spent that windfall on giving every Amazon employee a hefty bonus for putting their lives and health at risk to fulfill the orders that flooded in during the pandemic. But he didn’t.

The global charity Oxfam issued a report in January 2021 that said Bezos’ wealth had increased so much between March and September 2020 that he could have paid all 876,000 Amazon employees a $105,000 bonus and still be as wealthy as he was before the pandemic. Amazon did give full-time, front-line workers a $500 bonus in June 2020. Bezos did spend millions on a union-busting campaign to thwart an organizing drive at the Amazon “fulfillment center” warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama.

And now the world’s second richest individual after Elon Musk has reportedly commissioned the Oceanco shipyard in the Netherlands to build a record-breaking yacht. The Oceanco Y72, currently under construction at the shipyard in the city of Alblasserdam, is a 417-foot, three-mast sailing yacht, according to the Boat International website.

“Once delivered, not only will she become the world’s largest sailing yacht but she will also hold the title for the largest superyacht ever built in the Netherlands,” Boat International said.

But the problem lies in a bridge too small that needs to be dismantled in order for the yacht to make its way from the shipyard to the open sea. De Hef was decommissioned as a railway bridge in 1994 after being replaced by a tunnel. The vertical lift bridge was later declared a national monument. De Hef underwent a major restoration from 2014 to 2017, and afterward the city said it would not be dismantled again, according to Dutch broadcaster Rijnmond.

De Hef has a boat clearance of 130 feet, which is not enough to accommodate the three 229-foot masts of Bezos’ yacht. Bloomberg reported the sails are so huge that it’s unsafe to land a helicopter onboard, so Bezos has commissioned a support yacht equipped with a helipad to trail alongside the superyacht.

The city of Rotterdam told news media a week ago that it had agreed to temporarily dismantle part of the Koningshaven Bridge, originally built in 1927 and rebuilt after being badly damaged by German bombers in 1940, to accommodate Bezos’ vanity superyacht. But in the face of a public backlash, local officials quickly backtracked and issued a statement saying that the plan had not yet been approved.

Rotterdam Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleg said the city would make a decision after a permit application is filed by Oceancoa privately owned custom yacht builder greatly benefiting from a booming market for superyachts—and the project has been assessed, including such factors as whether the bridge’s structure can be preserved and the environmental and economic impact.

The plan’s supporters say that by accommodating Bezos, the city will create more economic opportunities in the region. Town & Country quoted Marcel Walravens, the leader of the proposed dismantling project: “From an economic perspective and maintaining employment, the municipality considers this a very important project,” Walravens told Dutch broadcaster Rijnmond. “Rotterdam has also been declared the maritime capital of Europe. Shipbuilding and activity within that sector are therefore an important pillar for the municipality.” 

Oceanco said the shipbuilder would pay all the costs for the bridge dismantling project, which is estimated to take several weeks to complete. Bezos presumably would be asked to pick up some of the tab.

But many residents and some local lawmakers are not impressed by such economic arguments, saying Bezos is benefiting from a double-standard that favors billionaires. “This man has earned his money by structurally cutting staff, evading taxes, avoiding regulations and now we have to tear down our beautiful national monument?” Rotterdam GroenLinks (Green Left) Councillor Stephan Leewis wrote on Twitter. “That is really going a bridge too far.”

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