OIL TANKER MANHATTAN
In one of
history's biggest privately funded ventures, the
tanker Manhattan won immortality as the first
commercial ship to break through the Northwest
Passage. The feast happened in 1969, after the
Manhattan was converted into an icebreaker by
Sun Shipping in Newport News, Virginia.
For over 500 years, the Northwest Passage had
tempted merchant adventurers with its promise of
a seaway connecting the Pacific and Atlantic
oceans across the ice choked top of North
America. The first explorer only succeeded after
a three-year journey. The following decades saw
that only nuclear submarines and small coast
guard icebreakers could make the trip. Until oil
was discovered on Alaska's North Slope in 1968
spurred the development of a brand new type of
ship: the icebreaking oil tanker.
Built in 1962 by Bethlehem Steel in Quincy,
Massachusetts, the SS Manhattan was also the
largest US merchant vessel. SS Manhattan was
also the only twinscrew tanker over 100,000 dwt
in the world at the time. She possessed a
unique, transitional structure that bridged an
evolutionary moment in ship design. The ship
combined the daring size of the future with the
conservative robustness of the past. For
example, the Manhattan had 45 cargo tanks
between the forepeak and engine room bulkheads.
Today's ships of similar length would have only
about 15 tanks. Her short tank length gave a
more substantially rigid structure than found in
the modern design. Her scantlings were so heavy
that the bottom plating, deck, and upper hull
structure were of heat-treated steel which by
nature a very favorable low temperature
The conversion project took everyone into the
unknown, shipyard, scientist, and expert alike.
Very little was actually known about the extent
of the work needed to make the Manhattan ready
for Arctic service. Only one yard--Sun
Shipbuilding was willing to take on the
extensive modification task in which over 9,200
tons of steel would be added to the ship.
At the project's height, the project occupied
over 90% of Sun's workforce of 5,500 men and
100% of its capacity. Esso also paid Sun to
suspend work on the two new buildings to give
complete the Manhattan's conversion in eight
No single shipyard could make it in eight
months, and the project was divided among four
yards: Sun, Newport News, Alabama Dry Dock, Bath
Iron Work. Arrived at Sun in January 1969 and
leaving in August of the same year, the
icebreaker Manhattan became the most heavily
armored merchant ship in history. Yet she lost
only a quarter-knot in service speed.
The total cost of the conversion was $58
million--all was undertaken by private
enterprises. (Arco and BP each paid $2 million
and Esso $54 million--about $300 million today.)
It was a tremendous cost if compared to a same
size tanker which would cost only $20 million to
build at that time.
Until the premature end of her days in 1987, SS
Manhattan sported her distinctive icebreaking
bow-- a monument to what can be achieved when
one has the will.
This Tanker Manhattan
Plank-on-frame, hollow hull construction, weighing
less than 10 lbs (A solid hull of this model
would be over 40 lbs which feels like a heavy toy
rather than an art piece.)
- Hollow superstructure is comprised of many
individual thin pieces of wood glued together, not
several solid pieces of wood stacking on top one
- Windows are cutouts (not black decals), thanks to
the hollow structures.
- Light rust appearance for
- >95% of parts are wood and metal.
48" long x 12" tall x 7" wide. Custom order and not for sale.
49" long, the Manhattan after
Preorder now $3,500
S & H is $150
For display case,
please click here:
Model Ship Display Case
arrived yesterday in perfect condition. It is
absolutely beautiful and I could not be happier. Thank
you so very much.
question concerning my model. I did not find a
“nameplate” – you know, the brass plaque stating
vessel’s name, shipbuilder, month/ year of build, main
dimensions and deadweight. I do not know if this was an
oversight on your part or whether this is an “extra”. If
it is an extra and you could provide we with a
nameplate, I would be pleased to pay additionally for
you so much for the beautiful model. I could not be
... And this is the nameplate that
we designed for our client (who loved it.) Free of
charge, as a way to say thanks to his continuous
safely received, in place and just perfect. Thank you
so very much. You will be hearing from my son
Jason K. in the near future and I myself would like to
do one more, finances permitting.
The model makes me happy each time I pass it – usually
5-6 times daily.