The drought-hit Panama Canal has temporarily limited the number of new reserved passage slots to help ease a bottleneck of ships that are waiting to transit without reservations, the waterway's authority said on Thursday.

A logjam of commercial vessels seeking to pass through the canal, one of the world's busiest trade passages, has sent companies that typically use the waterway chasing alternative routes, according to executives and data.

Any delay or disruption can put shippers on edge. The Panama Canal reduces costs and transit times for many shippers, including major retailers and energy companies involved in trade between China and the U.S.