The nascent growth of the Chinese economy is imparting a benefit to economies and companies worlds away from it. As China binged on the need to grow, it imported vast quantities of cement, steel, and oil, and those purchases created booms that seemed to defy the cycles in their respective industries.

One of the most recent beneficiaries of China's growth has been Overseas Shipholding Group (NYSE:OSG). The second-largest tanker company in the world, it has some 100 vessels in its fleet, just behind Teekay Shipping (NYSE:TK) and its 147. The tanker company reported record first-quarter earnings last week of $4.18 per share, more than double the $1.99 per share it realized last year, and a revenue increase of 41% to $267 million.

Tankers are ships that carry large amounts of liquid fuel, generally petroleum products. Besides pipelines, they are the only means of moving such large quantities around the world. With the price of oil remaining high and China developing an insatiable appetite, tanker companies like Overseas, Teekay, and Frontline (NYSE:FRO) have all been enjoying bountiful times.

But in looking at the shipshape prospects of Greek tanker company Taskos Energy Navigation (NYSE:TNP), Fool contributor Stephen Simpson suggested that the tanker industry may have already hit its peak. Shipping rates have come down from their highs because tanker capacity is growing, and Chinese development and the improving U.S. economy have pushed capacity well beyond its normal top utilization rate of 90% to full capacity. Demand for oil, rather than the price of oil, will probably fuel the future of these companies. Moreover, Overseas is a contract carrier, rather than a common carrier. That means that, unlike other tanker companies, it is not bound to specific ports or schedules and so experiences less volatility and fluctuation than its competitors often do.

Additionally, the International Maritime Organization is requiring greater conversion to double-hull tankers before 2010. Overseas has almost completely eliminated its single-hull tankers and leases back any that it might need. Therefore, during a period of high profitability, Overseas has reduced its future costs and exposure. When it acquired Stelmar Shipping for $1.4 billion in January, it grew its fleet from 60 to 100 vessels, with all of the new additions being double-hulled. Stelmar controls about one-fifth of the world's vessels by capacity, and its fleet was relatively new.

At almost $58 a share, Overseas Shipholding is not particularly cheap right now, and it sits only 13% off its 52-week highs. But it does sport a P/E ratio of just 5.8, compared with 7.2 for Teekay and 7.1 for General Maritime (NYSE:GMR). Frontline has a comparable 5.3 multiple. Going forward, analysts are expecting EPS growth of $10.58 for this year, though the company's first-quarter performance might cause them to raise their expectations and provide for a PEG of greater than the current one, which is around 0.60, half the industry's 1.23.

The tanker industry is cyclical, and Overseas, Teekay, and Frontline have all experienced years in which they've had more negative quarters than positive ones. With the price of oil holding firm and demand in China not appearing to abate anytime soon, Overseas Shipholding might be an interesting play that investors might want to transport to their portfolio, if the market provides an attractive buying opportunity.

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Fool contributor Rich Duprey does not own any of the stocks of companies mentioned in the article.