Philippines Says 78 Crew Refused to Sail Red Sea as it Increases Ban

Filipino seafarers will be banned from ships in the Red Sea to provide better protection (file photo)

Published Jun 26, 2024 1:35 PM by The Maritime Executive


The Philippines is moving forward with steps to bar its seafarers from being aboard vessels transiting the Red Sea and sailing in the Gulf of Aden near Yemen. During a press briefing on Tuesday in Manila, the Department of Migrant Workers detailed the steps it plans to take to expand its previous directives to the shipping industry to expand the safety protections for its citizens working aboard commercial ships in response to the latest escalations by the Houthi militants in Yemen.

Department Secretary Hans Cacdac highlights that the majority of the seafarers on the car carrier Galaxy Leader which was seized in November 2023 by the Houthi are Filipino as were the 22 crew aboard the bulkers Tutor sunk by the Houthi and the Transworld Navigator which was attacked last weekend. The Philippines arranged for the repatriation of the 21-surviving crew from the Tutor after the ship was abandoned and Cacdac said they will be removing the 27 Filipino crewmembers from the Transworld Navigator when it reaches port after the recent attack.

Cacdac last month reported the department was considering bans on all Filipino seafarers working on vessels transiting the Red Sea. He told the briefing on Tuesday that it is a complex situation. They are conducting security and risk assessments with the industry and partners including the Philippine Navy and Coast Guard. Filipinos make up one of the largest groups of seafarers working in the commercial industry.

As a first step, Cacdac announced that they would be targeting the three shipping companies that owned or managed the vessels, which includes Evalend Shipping of Greece which operated the Tutor. He did not specify how extensive the ban would be related to the Galaxy Leader, which is managed by Ray Car Carriers and has affiliations to Zodiac Maritime, the Eyal Ofer company based in the UK with extensive shipping interests. The True Confidence is owned in Greece and with its ISM management in Cyprus. Filipinos will be barred from sailing on any of these companies' ships that are transiting in or near the Red Sea. 

The Department will look to widen the ban and Cacdac said they would be reviewing the records of other ships that have been targeted by the Houthi. He expects the list of ships involved in the ban could increase. 

They are also looking to require shipowners to submit affirmation letters that they will not employ Filipino seafarers to the Red Sea or the Gulf of Aden.

The Department has taken two prior actions including in March 2024 recommending that ships divert from Red Sea routes. The following month they specifically banned the employment of Filipinos on passenger or cruise ships transiting the Red Sea citing the large number of people normally on these ships.

Following the actions of the International Transport Workers’ Federation and International Bargaining Forum, the Philippines is also requiring all ship owners to notify Filipino crewmembers if the ship is going to transit the Red Sea. Seafarers must be given the option to leave the vessel.

Cacdac reports so far 78 Filipino seafarers have refused to sail due to planned transits in the high-risk zone. He also warned that they have received reports that some seafarers were not given an adequate amount of time to exercise the right to refuse to sail.  He said shipowners must improve the time element of the notification and said they would consider actions against ships that failed to provide adequate notice.

The Department emphasizes that it is not an “absolute prohibition” as Filipino seafarers can sail on other ships from these companies that are not entering the high-risk zones. They however are planning to further amend existing rules to provide better protection for Filipino seafarers.