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The Dutch vow to egg Jeff Bezos' yacht if a bridge is dismantled to let his boat pass

A picture taken last week in Rotterdam shows the Koningshaven lift bridge, popularly called "De Hef."
Remko de Waal
ANP/AFP via Getty Images
A picture taken last week in Rotterdam shows the Koningshaven lift bridge, popularly called "De Hef."

It's not exactly smooth sailing these days in the Dutch port city of Rotterdam, where locals are voicing their objection to a plan that would temporarily dismantle a historic bridge to enable the passage of a record-breaking yacht reportedly owned by former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

In fact, some are already making plans — albeit in jest — for what they will do if the project comes to fruition: throw eggs at the yacht as it traverses the water under the Koningshaven Bridge, known locally as "De Hef."

Some 13,000 people are "interested" and nearly 4,000 have said they will attend a Facebook event titled "Throwing eggs at superyacht Jeff Bezos," which has been shared more than 1,000 times in the week since its creation.

"Calling all Rotterdammers, take a box of rotten eggs with you and let's throw them en masse at Jeff's superyacht when it sails through the Hef in Rotterdam," wrote organizer Pablo Strörmann.

He told the NL Times that the protest started as a joke among friends and has quickly gotten "way out of hand." (The English-language news site also notes that this isn't Strörmann's first campaign to go viral.)

The news of De Hef's potential disassembly, however brief, has clearly struck a chord with both locals and international observers.

It all started last week when Dutch broadcaster Rijnmond reported that the city appeared willing to grant a request to dismantle the decades-old steel bridge so that Bezos' yacht could pass through.

De Hef was built in 1927 as a railway bridge, with a midsection that can be lifted to allow ship traffic to pass underneath, according to The Washington Post. It was replaced by a tunnel and decommissioned in 1994, but was saved from demolition by public protests and later declared a national monument.

The ship's three masts are apparently too high for the bridge's roughly 130-foot clearance.

The sailing yacht in question was reportedly commissioned by the billionaire Amazon founder and is currently being built at the Oceanco shipyard in the Netherlands, according to Boat International. It will consist of three masts with aluminum and steel construction and will measure more than 415 feet in length.

"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," it added.

The waterway where the bridge sits is the only way the ship can get from the shipyard in Alblasserdam to the open seas, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. So Oceanco asked Rotterdam officials to temporarily remove the middle section of the bridge.

City spokesperson Netty Kros told the CBC that "the applicant" would cover the costs of the project but did not clarify whether that refers to the yacht's owner, the shipbuilder or both. Bloomberg reports that Oceanco will foot the bill. NPR has reached out to Amazon and Oceanco to confirm these details.

The city appeared to agree to the arrangement last week, with municipal project leader Marcel Walravens telling Rijnmond that the project would proceed for logistical and economic reasons. He said an exact plan was being developed but estimated it would take about a week to prepare and another week to "put everything back in place."

"At the Koningenne Bridge, we can press a button, and it opens. That's not possible here because De Hef has a maximum height," Walravens said, according to a translation from the NL Times. "The only alternative is to take out the middle part."

That prompted an immediate backlash from locals, lawmakers and social media users, with the Rotterdam Historical Society pointing out that city officials had promised never to dismantle the bridge again after completing a major restoration in 2017.

Officials then walked back the reports, with Rotterdam's mayor telling a Dutch newspaper on Thursday that "no decision has yet been taken, not even an application for a permit," according to The Guardian.

He said the municipality would consider an application and assess the potential impacts, like whether the dismantling can be done without damaging the bridge and who would cover the costs.

Proponents of the plan say the project will bring more economic opportunities to the region, while critics say there's a double standard at play.

"Normally it's the other way around: If your ship doesn't fit under a bridge, you make it smaller," Strörmann told the NL Times. "But when you happen to be the richest person on Earth, you just ask a municipality to dismantle a monument. That's ridiculous."

With a net worth of more than $188 billion, Bezos is the third-richest person in the world behind Tesla founder Elon Musk and French businessman Bernard Arnault, according to Forbes' real-time list.

Hypothetically, if the project does come to pass, and locals do show up with eggs, just how hard of a moving target would the yacht be? The website Curbed set out to find out.

After examining several studies and making a few calculations, reporter Clio Changsays an egg would have to travel about 238 feet to hit the hull — "a difficult, but not impossible, feat."

This story originally appeared onthe Morning Edition live blog.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.