WASHINGTON Four companies have told the United States since last Friday they intend to take advantage of a rare waiver allowing foreign-flagged ships to take oil products and additives from the U.S. Gulf to the Northeast to help relieve a fuel crunch after Hurricane Sandy, the federal government said on Wednesday.
The Department of Homeland Security issued a blanket waiver of the 1920 Jones Act last Friday.
"As of today, four companies have notified MARAD of their intent to use the waiver to transport petroleum products and fuel additives from the Gulf to the Northeast to ensure it has the fuel needed to proceed with recovery efforts," said the Department of Transportation's Maritime Administration, also known as MARAD.
The number of shippers could rise as companies do not have to tell the government they intend to ship oil to the Northeast until 24 hours after loading in the Gulf of Mexico.
The waiver allows foreign-flagged ships to load oil products from the Gulf of Mexico until November 13 and deliver it to ports in the Northeast by November 20.
MARAD would not say which companies intended to use the waiver.
Successful oil traders could profit by nearly $2 million on each exempt cargo of gasoline they are able to ship from Houston to New York, according to Reuters' calculations. The journey takes around a week.
The Jones Act, part of the 1920 Merchant Marine Act, was created to support domestic jobs in the shipping industry. It requires goods moved between U.S. ports to be carried by ships built domestically and staffed by U.S. crews.
(Reporting By Tim Gardner; editing by Carol Bishopric)