The National Iron & Steel Heritage Museum
SS Manhattan - A Moment in Time
The SS Manhattan was an oil tanker that became the first commercial ship to cross the Northwest Passage in 1969. Built as an ordinary tanker in 1962, she was refitted for this voyage with an icebreaker bow in 1968–69. She was the largest American merchant vessel as well as the biggest icebreaker in history.

Manhattan ‘s route began in August 1969 on the east coast of North America and transited the passage from east to west via the Baffin Sea and Viscount Melville Sound. This route through the Northwest Passage was quite controversial in international relations as sovereignty of these waters was claimed by Canada and this claim had been disputed by the United States.

The official reason for the voyage involved oil that had been discovered at Prudhoe Bay in 1968. Oil companies reasoned that sea transport of oil by icebreaking supertankers would be cheaper than the building of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System to Valdez. A second attempt to cross the passage in winter proved impossible, and there were numerous environmental concerns with the project, so it was cancelled and the Trans-Alaska pipeline built.

  • Type: Oil Tanker 
  • Tonnage: 105,000 tons
  • Keel: 1,005 ft 
  • Displacement: 150,000+ tons
  • Beam: 132 ft 
  • Launched: 1962