Houthi-hit ship sinks as troubles mount in missing seafarer’s rescue

Photo: Etat-Major des Armées via AP

By Rjay Zuriaga Castor

The Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) announced on Thursday, June 20, that the cargo vessel MV Tutor has sunk, complicating the search for Nixon Asejo, an Antiqueño engineer who remains missing.

DMW Secretary Hans Cacdac stated that the vessel drifted to the eastern African coast and was last seen near Eritrea on June 17.

On June 18, the DMW said search operations for Asejo will commence once the vessel reaches a safe dock.

This announcement follows a statement from the White House, which reported that a Filipino sailor was “killed” during a Houthi rebel attack on the MV Tutor on June 12 in the southern Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

The DMW has not confirmed the White House’s statement.

Meanwhile, Cacdac noted that the DMW is investigating whether the shipping company and manning agency complied with all safety requirements for vessels traversing “war-like zones” (WLZs) such as the Red Sea.

In April, the DMW issued an order prohibiting the deployment of Filipino seafarers on passenger and cruise ships passing through the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, areas identified as WLZs by the International Transport Workers’ Federation and International Bargaining Forum.

The order mandates licensed manning agencies to sign an “affirmation letter” guaranteeing that the vessels Filipino seafarers are set to board will not navigate the volatile sea lanes.

Following this incident, the DMW said it would review the current policy, admitting that an outright ban on sailing in the Red Sea is not feasible due to commercial necessities.

“We had directed the ships carrying Filipino seafarers to divert. Ngayon, mayroong right to refuse sailing. ‘Yan ang declaration din in partnership with the International Bargaining Forum that should be honored,” Cacdac said.


The 21 Filipino seafarers rescued from the Houthi-hit MV Tutor in the Red Sea safely arrived in the country on June 17.

In a radio interview, Asejo’s family remains hopeful that he is still alive.

Melinda Asejo Ting, Nixon’s sister, said her family still believes Nixon survived the incident, despite being the only crew member still missing out of the 22 Filipino seafarers on the ship.

“As his sister, I don’t feel that my brother has passed away. All of us, including his children and our cousins in Antique, firmly believe that my brother is still alive,” she said.

Nixon, 55, originally from Brgy. Diclum, Tobias Fornier, Antique, relocated to Metro Manila to support his family. He has three children from his late wife.


The international shipping industry, in a joint statement, condemned the assaults by the Iranian-backed terrorist group, noting that the attacks “directly contravene the fundamental principle of freedom of navigation.”

“Our thoughts and condolences go to the family and loved ones of the seafarer who tragically lost their life. It is deplorable that innocent seafarers are being attacked while simply performing their jobs, vital jobs which keep the world warm, fed, and clothed,” the statement read.

The shipping community stressed that the bombing of MV Tutor was the second fatal attack that caught them in the crosshairs of geopolitical conflicts.

“This is an unacceptable situation, and these attacks must stop now. We call for states with influence in the region to safeguard our innocent seafarers and for the swift de-escalation of the situation in the Red Sea,” they added.

They further emphasized the need for urgent action to stop the unlawful attacks on the marine industry’s vital workers.

The Department of Foreign Affairs also condemned the attack on the cargo vessel, emphasizing that it will take all necessary measures to secure the safety and well-being of the Filipino crew and ensure justice. It called on United Nations member states to ensure the protection of human rights for seafarers.

“We remain steadfast in ensuring the safety and welfare of all Filipino seafarers worldwide,” the DFA added.