Houthis Confirm Boarding Tutor While Threatening Another Ship in Escalation

explosion bulker Tutor
Houthis confirmed boarding and setting off explosive on the bulker Tutor (X screen grab)

Published Jun 21, 2024 12:15 PM by The Maritime Executive



The leadership of the Houthis confirmed in a televised speech that its forces had hastened the sinking of the bulker Tutor earlier in the week while making a similar threat to the abandoned bulker Verbena still afloat and drifting in the Gulf of Aden. This came as the leader of the EU operation said in an interview that its force needed to be expanded to counter the current escalation by the Houthi.

Citing what he called the “fourth stage of the escalation,” the declared leader of the Houthi Abdul-Malik al-Houthi during the televised speech said his followers were “able to board the ship Tutor, and booby-trapped it and blew it up after it was first hit by a military boat.” This is consistent with the images released showing multiple explosions at the stern of the disabled ship which had been abandoned and was drifting in the Red Sea.

There had been similar unconfirmed allegations in March that the Houthi also boarded the Rubymar, a bulker carrying fertilizer to Lebanon, and also sabotaged it causing the vessel that had been drifting for days to suddenly sink. The Houthi were able to reach both vessels after the crews abandoned ship and before salvage teams arrived at the vessels.

During the speech, the Houthis said “There is a second ship that is about to sink in the Gulf of Aden.” It was a veiled threat to carry out a similar operation on the Verbena which they had earlier asserted had already sunk. The ship was abandoned when the crew was unable to control a fire started by the Houthi attack. Unconfirmed reports said a salvage team is being organized for this vessel.

The Houthi asserted that they had conducted 10 operations with 26 missiles, drones, and one boat over the past week. They said eight ships were targeted bringing the total to 153. Their strong claim, flatly denied by CENTCOM and officers on the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, was that they had targeted the Eisenhower for a third time in the northern Red Sea “with missiles and chasing it.”

The Operational Commander for EU NAVFOR Aspides spoke with Bloomberg marking four months of the operation. Rear Admiral Vasileios Gryparis said in the interview that they have escorted 164 ships while shooting down more than a dozen unmanned aerial vehicles and four anti-ship ballistic missiles. Despite having four warships, he said the operation is limited due to the scope of the area to “A small part of the southern Red Sea, near the Bab el-Mandeb Strait.”

Rear Admiral Gryparis Admiral told Bloomberg that the force needs to be more than doubled because of the escalation. On June 19, he also presented to the European Union Military Committee the revision of the Operation Plan for Aspides. 

Unconfirmed reports are that the U.S. currently has three warships in addition to the Eisenhower in the region. The Houthis acknowledged that the “Americans and British carried out 24 raids this week,” while saying they had no effect. CENTCOM however reported that ground control and radar installations were destroyed. They also reported destroying many of the uncrewed surface vessels over the past week including four more in the last 24 hours.