Europe’s energy crisis has unleashed a global battle over natural-gas tankers, leading to a shortage of ships and further boosting the fuel’s record prices.

European countries ramped up their purchases of liquefied natural gas from the U.S., Qatar and other sources this year as Russia cut supplies to the continent. They are competing with peers in South Korea and Japan—where gas demand has surged during a heat wave—for a finite amount of supply ferried by a limited number of vessels.

The jostling has increased orders for new tankers transporting LNG—specialized ships the length of three football fields—as well as their price. Rates to charter existing tankers have jumped too, which has helped push gas prices to records in Europe and Asia.