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21 Filipino seafarers rescued from ship hit by Houthis – DMW

Jairo Bolledo

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21 Filipino seafarers rescued from ship hit by Houthis – DMW

DMW. Newly appointed Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) Secretary Hans Leo Cacdac, leads the flag ceremony at the DMW headquarters, on April 29, 2024.

Angie de Silva/Rappler

The search for one missing Filipino sailor will continue and there is a plan to start salvaging operations for the MV Tutor, says Department of Migrant Workers Secretary Hans Leo Cacdac

MANILA, Philippines – Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) Secretary Hans Leo Cacdac said on Saturday, June 15, that 21 of the 22 Filipino seafarers who were on a ship that was attacked by Houthis in the southern Red Sea had been rescued.

In-extract ‘yong (They extracted) 21 Filipino seafarers and they were boarded on to a security forces ship and taken to safer port,” Cacdac said during the Saturday News Forum on Saturday.

He said the rescued Filipino seafarers, crew members of the MV Tutor, were all safe. The rescue took place between 10:30 pm to 11 pm on Friday, June 14.

The search for one missing Filipino sailor will continue and there is a plan to start salvaging operations for the MV Tutor, the Liberia-flagged coal carrier, Cacdac said on Saturday. He said the vessel’s 22 crew members were all Filipinos.

“It just boils down to finding our seafarer who is still onboard,” Cacdac said.

The southern Red Sea is part of the International Bargaining Forum’s (IBF) list of high-risk and warlike areas. Filipino seafarers can refuse to sail in areas in the IBF list, but if they choose to, they will receive double compensation, among others.

The attack near the Yemeni port of Hodeidah on Wednesday caused severe flooding and damage to the engine room and left Tutor unable to maneuvre. It was the third Houthi attack on a ship manned by Filipino seafarers since last year, with two Philippine sailors dying and 17 still held by militants, government data show.

Iran-aligned Houthis claimed responsibility for the missile strike on Tutor and another vessel, Verbena, in the Gulf of Aden, over the past days. Their attacks also damaged two other ships in the last week, “marking a significant increase in effectiveness,” British security firm Ambrey said.

The Houthis have used drones and missiles to assault ships in the Red Sea, the Bab al-Mandab Strait and the Gulf of Aden since November, saying they are acting in solidarity with Palestinians in the Gaza war. They have sunk one ship, seized another vessel and killed three seafarers in separate attacks.

“This situation cannot go on,” International Maritime Organization Secretary-General Arsenio Dominguez said in a statement.

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said in a video message posted on the DMW Facebook page on Friday that Philippine authorities were coordinating with the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) to take the crew members to Djibouti and bring them home.

The missing crew member was believed to be trapped in the engine room, maritime sources and the Philippines’ migrant workers ministry said.

Tutor is not sinking and can be safely towed away, Cacdac said after a meeting with the ship’s manning agency. He added that Filipino seafarers have the right to refuse boarding in ships passing through Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.

The ship’s Athens-based manager Evalend Shipping has not responded to Reuters’ requests for comment.

Tsavliris Salvage Group has been assigned to tow the ship, which is carrying 80,000 tonnes of coal, a source with knowledge of the matter told Reuters. The project will involve two vessels. The first is expected to reach Tutor on Monday morning and the second on Tuesday evening.

The Houthis’ air and sea campaign has disrupted global shipping, causing delays and costs to cascade through supply chains. At least 65 countries and major energy and shipping companies – including Shell, BP, Maersk, and Cosco – have been affected, according to a report by the US Defense Intelligence Agency.

INTERCARGO, which represents dry cargo ship owners, urged states to enhance maritime security in the area.

“We demand that all involved parties cease their deliberate and targeted attacks on innocent seafarers with immediate effect,” it said.

Amid the incident, Cacdac had said that the government “will review the current policies, the current processes, on whether we could still further strengthen to seek more adequate protection for our seafarers.”

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As early as April, the DMW already barred Filipino seafarers from working on cruise and passenger vessels that pass through the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. However, commercial ships are not included in the said order.

In the case at of the Filipino crew of the MV Tutor, they had consented to sail in the Red Sea, Cacdac earlier said. – With reports from Reuters/Rappler.com

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Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering justice, police, and crime.