A European port will dismantle a historic bridge to deliver a giant yacht to Jeff Bezos

A growing market.
A growing market.
Image: Reuters/Eric Gaillard
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Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ vast fortune is partly based on quick, hassle-free delivery. But he faces shipping issues himself—his superyacht, under construction in the Netherlands, is apparently too tall to pass under a historic bridge in the port city of Rotterdam because of its trio of masts.

According to Dutch broadcaster Rijnmond (link in Dutch), the local ship builder has convinced city authorities to dismantle a part of the bridge, which dates back to the 19th century.

Jeff Bezos’s $500 million superyacht

Bezos appears to be keen to spend some of his post-CEO leisure time on luxury travel, whether as a space tourist, or on his very own yacht, a mode of travel where the wealthy enjoy gathering for a stressful cocktail of business and pleasure, judging by episodes of Succession.

While ship builder Oceanco’s website doesn’t mention this project, its owner, Omani businessman Mohammed al Barwani, revealed in November that Oceanco is currently building a 127-meter-long (416 ft) sailboat. Meanwhile, according to Boat International, a trade publication covering the yacht industry, that is the exact length of Oceanco’s Y721 project, under construction for Bezos. Still to be christened, it will take the title of the world’s largest sailing boat from Sea Cloud, which was commissioned in 1931.

The yacht will have its own support yacht, according to Bloomberg, which estimated the project is costing about $485 million.

Bezos and Oceanco would cover the costs of the necessary bridge work, according to Rijnmond. Oceanco and the Rotterdam city government didn’t immediately respond to questions from Quartz.

Demand for superyachts—as for many other luxury goods—has surged during the pandemic, a rarefied counterpart to the boom in used cars at the other end of the wealth spectrum. As of December, 1,024 such yachts were on order, according to Boat International, a 25% increase from a year earlier, according to CNBC. It isn’t clear when Bezos ordered his yacht, but it can take three to five years for a custom-made boat.

Why Rotterdam’s agreeing to the request

Rotterdam’s Koningshaven bridge dates back in one form or another to the late 19th century. It was rebuilt after being bombed in World War II. From 2014 to 2017, De Hef, as locals call it, underwent a restoration. Though trains haven’t crossed over it in a long time, it remains an important part of the city’s industrial history.

Marcel Walravens, a city official involved in that restoration project, defended the dismantling to Rijnmond, saying he doesn’t think it would be practical to remove the masts and then finish the boat again elsewhere.

While some city residents may see this as a symbol of the entitlement of billionaires, for Rotterdam authorities it’s a logical step to support the maritime sector, which has long been vital to the Dutch economy. The Netherlands is home to Europe’s busiest port, and the Dutch shipping industry employs tens of thousands of people.

“From an economic perspective and maintaining employment, the municipality considers this a very important project,” Walravens told Rijnmond.