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MSCI Advisory

2020-003-Sulu and Celebes Seas-Piracy/Armed Robbery/Terrorism


This revised advisory cancels U.S. Maritime Advisory 2019-011

1. Reference: U.S. Maritime Alerts 2018-006A and 2018-009A

2. Issue: In 2019, there were at least 12 reported boardings, attempted boardings, attacks, hijackings, and kidnappings in the Sulu and Celebes Seas. Kidnapping incidents in this area were reportedly linked to the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), a violent Islamic separatist group operating in the southern Philippines. Specific case details are available at the Office of Naval Intelligence’s “Worldwide Threat to Shipping” and “Piracy Analysis and Warnings” website at

3. Guidance: U.S. flagged vessels are advised to remain vigilant and adhere to the counter-piracy annex of their approved Vessel Security Plan when transiting the Sulu and Celebes Seas in light of recent boardings and kidnappings for ransom that have taken place in those areas. The Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia’s (ReCAAP) Information Sharing Center advises all ships to avoid anchoring outside port limit areas and to exercise enhanced vigilance, maintain strict look-outs (particularly during hours of darkness), and report all incidents to the relevant authorities immediately. Additional information on threats in this region, including specific recommendations for vessels transiting the area, are available on the ReCAAP website at

4. Mariners operating in or near these areas are also advised to consult the Department of State Travel Warnings at

5. All suspicious activities and events must be reported to the U.S. Coast Guard National Response Center at 800-424-8802 in accordance with 33 CFR 101.305.

6. Contact Information: For any questions about this advisory, contact Supplemental information may also be found on the MARAD Office of Maritime Security website at ReCAAP Focal Points Contact Information is available at

7. Cancellation of Prior Advisories: This message cancels U.S. Maritime Advisory 2019-011 and will automatically expire on July 16, 2020.

For more information about U.S. Maritime Alerts and Advisories, including subscription details, please visit