Two Bulkers in Danger of Sinking After Houthi Attacks

sinking bulker
Tutor shown down at the stern after the attacks (FFEAU ALINDIEN photo from June 14)

Published Jun 16, 2024 2:33 PM by The Maritime Executive


Yemen's Houthi rebels issued an unverified claim on Saturday, June 15, that one of the two bulkers attacked last week has now sunk in the Gulf of Aden and a second is in danger of sinking in the Red Sea. Western officials have acknowledged that both vessels were abandoned and taking on water but have not confirmed at this time that either has sunk.

The Houthi are saying that both vessels were targeted with multiple attacks which happened in the past 72 hours. They are asserting that the shipping companies had “violated the ban on access to the ports” of Israel.

The vessel which they are claiming to have sunk, Verbena (11,400 dwt) is reported to be owned by Ukrainian interests and managed from Poland. The general cargo ship was built in 2008 and is currently registered in Palau. According to the reports, the ship was carrying a cargo of wood construction material from Malaysia to Italy.


Two anti-ship cruise missiles hit the vessel while it was in the Gulf of Aden and it was struck for a second time in 24 hours, by one anti-ship ballistic missile. An unconfirmed video circulating online shows a large hole above the waterline. Reports said that there were fires aboard and one crewmember was seriously injured. EUNAVFOR Aspides reports the crewmember was airlifted to the Dutch support vessel HLMNS Karel Doorman for life saving surgery. Aspides reported the sailor was from Nepal although other reports have identified the nationality as Polish.

After initially saying the fires had been extinguished, UK Maritime Trade Operations reported that the master of the ship said the fires were still burning and that the ship was sinking. The crew was evacuated from the ship, and the last confirmed reports suggested that it was drifting 30 nautical miles northeast of Djibouti. Other ships were being warned that it was unlit and a danger to navigation.

The Anna-Meta (a 56,280 dwt bulker registered in the Cayman Islands) responded to the distress call and rescued the crew as it was abandoning ship. CENTCOM reports that the Iranian frigate IRIN Jamaran was eight nautical miles from the Verbena and did not respond to the call for help. 

If the vessel has sunk, it would be the second lost during the conflict. In March, the bulker Rubymar sank several days after it was attacked. It had also been abandoned and was drifting in the Red Sea

.Additionally, they are reporting the Tutor, a Greek-owned bulker registered in Liberia, is in danger of sinking. France released a photo of the vessel showing it down by the stern.

The vessel was attacked on June 12 with a drone boat as well as missiles (video above). Reports are that salvage tugs are proceeding to the vessel and are expected to arrive on Monday. The USS Philippine Sea and a French air defense frigate used helicopters to evacuate the 21 crewmembers, mostly Filipino from the vessel on Friday. One Filipino remains missing presumed deceased in the flooded engine room of the vessel. 

CENTCOM acknowledged “severe flooding and damage to the engine room,” caused by the drone boat. They are reporting the Tutor remains in the Red Sea and is slowly taking on water.

The Philippine government on Friday expressed its outrage at the attacks including from President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. who released a video assuring the country that they were doing everything possible to protect the country’s seafarers. The reports said the crew of the Tutor was being evacuated to Djibouti. The Philippines said it would review the work rules for seafarers. The IMO also issued a strong statement calling for further actions to immediately stop the attacks.

In response to the latest escalation, U.S. Central Command reported that between Friday and Saturday, its forces destroyed seven radars in Yemen. According to the statement, the radars allowed the Houthis to target maritime vessels and endanger commercial shipping. CENTCOM also reported that two more uncrewed surface vessels were destroyed in the Red Sea, and that forces successfully destroyed one uncrewed aerial system launched from a Houthi-controlled area of Yemen over the Red Sea.

On Sunday, Houthi forces claimed to have launched attacks on three more vessels - the Captain Paris, the Happy Condor and an unnamed American destroyer. The group did not claim any additional hits. Western forces have not confirmed these specific claims, but UKMTO reported two near-miss explosions near an unnamed vessel just north of the Strait of Bab el-Mandeb in the early hours of Sunday morning. The vessel's master reported that the ship was safe and the crew were unharmed.