UPDATE 2-Ship backlog in Houston Ship Channel falling -Pilots
* Number of ships waiting to move in or out down 30 to 57
* Coast Guard stretches shipping cutoff to midnight from 6 p.m.; to resume at daylight (Adds details on shipping and cleanup of oil)
HOUSTON, March 26 (Reuters) - The backlog of ships waiting to sail in or out of the Houston Ship Channel fell on Wednesday as crews cleaned a fuel oil spill in Galveston Bay, the head of the Houston Pilots said.
The U.S. Coast Guard also reduced the so-called daylight restriction, allowing ships to sail until midnight CDT (0500 GMT) before movement stops until Wednesday morning, which is expected to further reduce the backlog, Houston Pilots Capt. Clint Winegar said.
He said the number of ships waiting to move to or from the port of Houston through the channel, the waterway through which more than a tenth of U.S. refining capacity receives crude oil, slid by 30 to 57 by Wednesday afternoon.
Affected tankers also included refined product ships waiting to move out, largely to export markets. The thinning backlog gave U.S. Gulf Coast cash gasoline differentials a double-digit boost on Wednesday, reversing a similar decline on the backup the day before.
On Tuesday, when both inbound and outbound traffic resumed, the Coast Guard stopped movement at about 6 p.m. CDT (2300 GMT) to limit the spread of fuel oil floating in Galveston Bay. On Wednesday, the Coast Guard stretched that window to midnight, Winegar said, when movement would stop until about 7:30 a.m. CDT (1230 GMT) on Thursday.
The channel and offshoots to Texas City and the port of Galveston, were shut on Saturday after a Kirby Inland Marine barge collided with a cargo ship and spilled heavy oil that is primarily used as fuel for ships.
Vessels in the channel must move very slowly and stop at inspection and decontamination stations. Continuación...