Stolt-Nielsen and Odfjell, the two biggest chemical tanker operators, are among shipowners switching more of their vessels to carry gasoline to the U.S. to meet surging demand as the International Energy Agency releases fuel from its stockpiles.
The conversions will avert a shortage of tankers to carry additional oil supplied by the agency, Jenkins said. The agency's 26 member nations plan to release 1.97 million barrels of oil a day for a 30-day period, of which 19 percent will be gasoline, the agency said.
A jump in demand for tankers has pushed freight rates to near records after Hurricane Katrina disrupted production in the Gulf of Mexico, prompting oil companies and traders to move fuel across the Atlantic to profit from differences in prices between the regions.
Crude oil makes up 65 percent of the agency's stockpile release, distillates such as gas oil make up 14 percent, and fuel oil makes up 2 percent, the agency said.