Baltimore Bridge
The FBI opened a criminal probe of the crash, with federal agents boarding the Dali ship with search warrants to conduct US Coast Guard via AFP

The owner and operator of the cargo vessel involved in the Francis Scott Key Bridge crash, which killed six people, cannot evade responsibility, according to the city of Baltimore.

Responding to a petition filed by vessel owners in U.S. District Court, Mayor Brandon Scott and the Baltimore City Council have criticized the businesses for trying to limit their liability, .

In their rebuttal, they said that Grace Ocean Private Ltd. and Synergy Marine Pte Ltd. knowingly launched an unseaworthy vessel into the water, calling the actions of these companies as "grossly negligent and potentially criminal."

The collision happened on March 26 as the 984-foot cargo vessel Dali endeavored to depart from Baltimore Harbor en route to Sri Lanka.

However, a loss of power affected its departure, leading to a catastrophic collision with the Francis Scott Key Bridge, resulting in the bridge's collapse into the Patapsco River.

The ship urgently transmitted a mayday call for police, which helped authorities to swiftly halt traffic.

Despite these efforts, eight individuals working on the bridge found themselves trapped as the vessel careened into the structure, hurling them into the river.

While two workers managed to be rescued and survived the ordeal, bodies of four workers have been recovered. The search continues for two more workers who remain missing, presumed to have succumbed to the incident.

Baltimore is insisting on a jury trial in the case, claiming that the companies' attempt to cap their liability for the vessel and cargo at $43.6 million falls significantly short of the expected claims for losses and damages.

The city of Baltimore said in a court filing: "None of this should have happened. Reporting has indicated that, even before leaving port, alarms showing an inconsistent power supply on the Dali had sounded. The Dali left port anyway, despite its clearly unseaworthy condition."

Saying that the Port of Baltimore generated over $70 billion last year alone, the city added that it might take years to fully recover the financial losses from the incident.

"For all intents and purposes, petitioners' negligence caused them to destroy the Key Bridge, and singlehandedly shut down the Port of Baltimore, a source of jobs, municipal revenue, and no small amount of pride for the City of Baltimore and its residents," it added.

The filings also target the ship's crew members, alleging that the company staffed the Dali with an "incompetent" crew lacking proper skill or training.

The crew, it is claimed, was "inattentive to its duties" and "failed to comply with local navigation customs."

Earlier this month, the FBI initiated a criminal investigation into the crash, concentrating on the events leading up to the bridge's collapse and assessing whether all federal laws were followed.