The FBI reportedly has opened a criminal investigation into the cargo ship that slammed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge and caused it to collapse in Baltimore last month, according to two anonymous senior law enforcement officials “familiar with the investigation”, NBC News reported.

The news had been first reported by the Washington Post on Monday morning.

ABC News said federal agents boarded the 985 foot Dali early on Monday with search warrants.

Also on Monday, Baltimore FBI confirmed to NBC News agents were on board “conducting court authorised law enforcement activity”.

The investigation would study events which led up to when the ship left the port, the sources told NBC News, and a portion of inquiry involved whether there was prior crew knowledge that the vessel had potential mechanical problems that would have made it unsafe in the harbour.

FBI agents were collecting physical evidence and data from inside the ship relating to the moments before, during and after the impact, the sources said.

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US media reports last week said salvage work had begun with divers cutting up submerged portions of the bridge into manageable sizes for floating cranes to retrieve from the sea bed and remove.

A small shipping channel had been opened to allow salvage vessel access but a full reopening would require removal of both submerged bridge debris plus a huge portion of the collapsed bridge roadway, weighing thousands of tons, currently wedged across the bow of the Dali container ship.

Once that is removed the ship can be towed back into Baltimore Port for repairs and the full shipping lane allowing access to the major vehicle import/export terminal reopened.

ANALYSIS: Auto industry braces for potential disruption from Baltimore bridge collapse