One Seafarer Missing on Disabled Ship and Second Injured in Houthi Attacks

bulker escort in Red Sea
Coalition warships are responding to both of the stricken vessels (EUNAVFOR Aspides file photo)

Published Jun 13, 2024 12:48 PM by The Maritime Executive


The Houthis have stepped up their attacks over the past 24 hours with severe consequences for the seafarers working aboard the vessels. With three reported incidents in a 24-hour span, one seafarer is reported missing and presumed deceased aboard the bulker Tutor that was hit yesterday, with another crewmember badly injured and being medically evacuated after a different attack today.

Unnamed Greek officials are acknowledging that the Tutor was attacked by a drone boat on Wednesday, resulting in a strong explosion and flooding of the engine room which disabled the vessel. One crewmember is unaccounted for and believed to be in the flooded engine room. U.S. Central Command in its daily update also acknowledged the attack on the Tutor by saying that it “caused severe flooding and damage to the engine room.”

Concerns are being raised as this is the first successful attack by the Houthi using a drone surface craft. Experts are warning that they can deliver more explosives than the missiles or aerial drones and are likely to cause more extensive damage such as the reports from the Tutor. CENTCOM previously reported destroying surface drones.

The 82,357 dwt bulker is registered in Liberia and managed by Evalend Shipping of Athens. Greek officials are saying there are 21 crewmembers aboard the vessel while unconfirmed reports are that a salvage operation will be mounted. 

Taking responsibility for the attack, Houthi spokesperson Yahya Saree said the shipping company had violated the rebels’ ban on port calls in Israel. The vessel was attacked 67 nautical miles southwest of Hodeidah, Yemen and Saree said the vessel was in danger of sinking in the Red Sea.

The second attack took place today, June 13, with the UK reporting its position 98 nautical miles east of Aden in the Gulf of Aden. The company's security officer told UK Maritime Trade Operations that the ship was hit by two projectiles and that a fire had resulted onboard. As has become a pattern with the Houthi, the vessel was attacked a second time later in the day with the crew reporting to UKMTO a third projectile caused minor damage. The fires were reported to be under control and the ship was proceeding.

CENTCOM confirmed that one crewmember was severely injured during the attack. Aircraft from USS Philippine Sea medically evacuated the injured mariner to a partner force ship nearby for medical attention.The vessel attacked was the Verbena (11,400 dwt), a Palau-flagged general cargo ship. Security consultant Ambrey reports the ship was sailing from Malaysia to Italy. CENTCOM is describing the ship as Polish-operated and most recently docked in Malaysia and enroute to Italy carrying wood construction material when it was attacked.

A third vessel in the Red Sea also reported an incident to UKMTO. The unidentified ship was in the Red Sea 82 nautical miles northwest of Hodeidah. It reported an “explosion in close proximity,” but said there was no damage and it was proceeding.

The Houthi spokesperson Saree issued a statement later in the day also taking credit for targeting two other vessels. He named the Seaguardian (75,462 dwt) a Malta-flagged bulker managed by Eastern Mediterranean Maritime, a company the Houthi have targeted before for its alleged violations of the ban on Israeli ports. The other vessel was only identified as Athina, a common ship name and was likely reference a crude oil tanker. Both ships were reported to be in the Red Sea but the assertions were not confirmed by either the US or UK authorities or EU NAVFOR Aspides.