MV Tutor sinks; search for Filipino sailor on hold

MV Tutor sinks; search for Pinoy sailor on hold

BACK HOME The 21 Filipino crew members of MV Tutor, which was attacked by Houthi rebels in the Red Sea on June 12, come home to a warm welcome in Manila on Monday. Another Filipino, however, remains missing. —GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE

The Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) confirmed on Thursday that the merchant ship MV Tutor has sunk, complicating the search operations for a missing Filipino seafarer.

Migrant Workers Secretary Hans Cacdac said that the bulk cargo carrier, which sustained damage to its engine room after being attacked by Houthi rebels in the Red Sea on June 12, reportedly drifted to the eastern African coast and was last sighted near Eritrea on June 17.

“On June 18, when a ship returned [to] the same [area] supposedly to commence the search and salvaging operation, the ship could not be found,” Cacdac told reporters in a virtual press briefing.

READ: Houthis attack 6th Filipino-crewed ship in Middle East

An oil slick was also reportedly spotted around the same projected location of the Liberian-flagged and Greek-owned and operated vessel, he added.

No body, no proof

While the White House announced earlier this week that the missing Filipino sailor was killed in the attack, Cacdac said the DMW could not officially confirm his death as authorities at sea were still attempting to locate him. “As far as we’re concerned, we haven’t seen the missing seafarer. We have not found him so we cannot confirm his death,” he added.

The DMW could not immediately provide a specific timeline for when the search operations would conclude, given the situation with Cacdac, who said it would be “more difficult” now to find the sailor.

He added that the government continued to assist the missing seafarer’s family, specifically through logistical support and coverage of their transportation expenses when meeting officials, in addition to psychosocial counseling through the Department of Health.

MV Tutor had 22 Filipino crew members when it was attacked on June 12. The other 21 were rescued two days later by American naval forces. The crew returned safely to the Philippines on June 17.

The Iran-backed Houthi rebel group has launched dozens of drone and missile strikes in vital shipping zones of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden since November, describing them as retaliation for the Israel-Hamas war.

Cacdac said the DMW continued its consultations with the maritime industry on the deployment policy for seafarers traversing identified war-like zones and high-risk areas such as the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.

According to manning agencies and shipowners, a total of 78 sailors have so far manifested their right to refuse deployment to the area since the DMW issued an order in March giving them that option.