Amazon founder and American billionaire Jeff Bezos will be breathing a sigh of relief this week after his new AU$723 million superyacht hits the open seas for its final testing phase after a particularly fraught building process that saw 10,000 locals vowing to throw rotten eggs at the vessel.
Now operational, the superyacht will take on the name The Koru, after the Maori symbol of an unfurling fern frond, and can carry up to 18 passengers and a 40-person crew.
Spanning 127 meters, the ship will be the second largest sailing vessel in the world, behind Russian billionaire Andrey Melnichenko’s ship colourfully named Sailing Yacht A, which was seized by Italian authorities after the Russian invasion of Ukraine last year.
The superyacht was built by dutch company Oceano, who petitioned the Rotterdam City Council to dismantle the heritage-listed Koningshavenburg Bridge (better known as “De Hef”) to allow passage downstream, maintaining it was the only access point for the vessel to the open sea.
If the plans had gone through, it wouldn’t have been the first time the bridge would have been taken down, with the bridge having needed repairs after being struck by the German vessel Kandelfels in 1918 and more recently undergoing renovations for three years in 2014.
Yet De Hef, or “The Lift” in English, isn’t just your average bridge. It has particular significance to locals, being the first-vertical lift bridge in the country and becoming a symbol of Dutch defiance after surviving the Nazi Luftwaffe in 1940. The bridge was decommissioned as a railway line in 1993 but remains a Rijksmonument heritage site.
After Bezos’s request became public last year, over 10,000 people joined a Facebook event to throw rotten eggs at the ship when it passed through, with organiser Pablo Strörmann telling the NL Times, “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.”
According to Gizmodo, the superyacht was moved earlier this month in the cover of darkness from its original home in the shipbuilding city of Alblasserda to the Greenport shipyard in Rotterdam, choosing to take another route away from De Hef despite being able to pass under the bridge’s clearance height of 40 meters prior to its three masts being mounted.
Turns out launching a boat can be even trickier than launching a rocket, Jeff.