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New Safety Warning as Greek Bulker is Abandoned and Drifting in Red Sea

drone attack boat
Suspected Houthi suicide drone boat, 2018 (file image courtesy Saudi coalition forces)

Published Jun 14, 2024 3:19 PM by The Maritime Executive

 

The Greek-owned bulker Tutor has been abandoned with the Filipino crew evacuated two days after the vessel became the first confirmed casualty of a Houthi-launched remote-controlled boat. The Tutor becomes the third vessel abandoned after an attack inflicted serious damage and as a result, security experts have issued increased warnings and are advising reconsidering transits of the region.

The attack on the Tutor (82,357 dwt) took place on June 12 with the vessel which was built in 2022 being hit in what has been described as a sensitive area in the stern. The engine room of the vessel flooded leaving the ship unable to navigate and now without power. One crewmember, a Filipino is missing and presumed deceased, likely trapped in the engine room.

Earlier today, the Philippines reported that an evacuation was underway. The 21 remaining crewmembers, mostly Filipino, were reported heading for Djibouti. The Philippines is working with local authorities to arrange for the crew to be flown home.

The UK Maritime Trade Organizations is warning that the vessel is now drifting in the Red Sea. They informed shipping to be cautious as the ship is reported to be unlit while Reuters reports a salvage team is not expected to reach the vessel until Monday.

Ambrey today issued a public Threat Circular providing additional details and warnings based on its analysis of the incident. They highlight that the Houthi had used previous versions of the drone boats in the early phase of the Yemeni Civil War but since November 2023 had been concentrating on missiles and airborne drones. The Saudis reported attacks during the civil war on their vessels using the remote-controlled boats and U.S. Central Command has recently reported a few actions to stop these crafts.

The Threat Circular says the attacks are being staged using fishing boats which is consistent with the UKMTO’s description of the boat that hit the Tutor as being 5 to 7 meters (16 to 23 feet) in length. Ambrey highlights that they are typically fiberglass or wooden boats.

They are reporting that the Houthis are placing dummies on the boats in an attempt to disguise the threat. They also report that in past incidents a second skiff was in the area and believed to be controlling the radio-controlled vessel.

Ambrey reports that one of the attack boats washed up near the Bab al Mandeb Strait in January 2024. It was found they report to contain 25 kg of C4 explosives and 50 kg of TNT. It had three electronic switches using contact switches for the detonation. 

Based on this first successful attack against a merchant ship, Ambrey is advising vessels to review their threat level and that high-risk vessels are advised to re-consider their voyage and re-routing. They also recommend that crews should have a safe muster point well above the waterline and away from exterior walls. All deck movements should be stopped within the areas around Yemen and AIS transmissions and other signals should stop if suspicious activity is encountered.