Salvage firm confirms sinking of Greek-owned Tutor struck by Houthis

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Naval forces rescue crew from Greek-owned ship struck by Houthis in Red Sea

By Yannis Souliotis and Renee Maltezou

ATHENS (Reuters) - The Greek-owned Tutor coal carrier attacked by Yemen's Houthi militants in the Red Sea last week has sunk, salvagers confirmed on Wednesday.

The Tutor was struck with missiles and an explosive-laden remote-controlled boat on June 12 and had been taking on water, according to sources including maritime security companies and the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO).

The UKMTO said on Tuesday that the vessel was believed to have become the second ship sunk by the Iran-aligned Houthis in the region since November.

The Houthis say their attacks on international shipping accessing the Suez Canal via the Red Sea are in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza.

Two salvage vessels were on their way to recover the Tutor when they were informed that the ship was believed to have sunk, Andreas Tsavliris, one of Tsavliris' Salvage owners, told Reuters.

Naval forces had informed vessels sailing to the area on Tuesday afternoon that the Liberia-flagged Tutor had sunk and that there was debris and evidence of oil at the site.

"Therefore we abandoned the mission," Tsavliris said.

The ship's Athens-based manager Evalend Shipping did not respond to Reuters' requests for comment.

The ship was carrying 22 crew members from the Philippines who were evacuated on June 14 by military authorities and repatriated.

One crew member, believed to have been working in the Tutor's engine room at the time of the attacks near the Yemeni port of Hodeidah, remains missing, the Philippines' Department of Migrant Workers has reported.

The UK-owned Rubymar was the first ship sunk by the Houthis. It sank on March 2, about two weeks after being struck by missiles.

Last week the Houthis also seriously damaged the Palau-flagged Verbena, which was loaded with wood construction materials.

Sailors from the Verbena abandoned ship when they were unable to contain a fire sparked by the attacks. The vessel is now drifting in the Gulf of Aden and vulnerable to sinking or further assaults.

The Houthi drone and missile assaults have forced shipping firms to divert vessels away from the Red Sea and Suez Canal to the longer route around the southern tip of Africa, delaying deliveries and raising freight costs.

(Writing by Renee Maltezou; editing by Jason Neely)