Philippine captain vows to return to sea after Houthi attack

By Neil Jerome Morales and Jay Ereno

MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippine crew of a vessel attacked by Yemen's Houthi militants was repatriated to the Philippines from Bahrain on Monday, with the ship's captain vowing to return to the seas after the crew had recovered from the experience.

Iran-aligned Houthis claimed responsibility for a missilestrike on the Liberia flagged, Greek-owned, coal carrier Tutor near the Yemeni port of Hodeidah on June 12. The ship was carrying 22 crew from the Philippines and one is still missing in the flooded engine room.

"We first need to rest because of the trauma," the Tutor's Captain Christian Domarique told a press conference at Manila airport. "We will recover for a few months before returning."

Houthi attacks have struck three vessels crewed by Filipino seafarers since last year, killing two sailors, with 17 still being held captive by militants, government data showed.

A tearful Domarique thanked God, his company, and government agencies for assisting him and his fellow seafarers to get back to the Philippines.

The government has pledged financial and psychological assistance for the 21 crew members.

"The captain has good working years ahead of him so with the crew that is relatively young, they will still have more seafaring years ahead of them," Hans Leo Cacdac, the Philippines' migrant workers minister, told a press conference.

The vessel's owner pledged to continue the search for the missing sailor alongside a salvaging operation to tow the stranded ship, Cacdac said, which on Friday was adrift in the Red Sea.

The Houthis, who have said their attacks are in support of Palestinians in Gaza, have disrupted global shipping, causing delays and costs to cascade through supply chains.

At least 65 countries and major energy and shippingcompanies - including Shell, BP, Maersk and Cosco - have been affected, according to a report by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency.

(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales, Jay Ereno and Adrian Portugal; Editing by Ed Davies and Sharon Singleton)