Indonesia’s vice president Jusuf Kalla has told shipowners not to negotiate or pay ransoms to release crew abducted by Abu Sayyaf, the Islamist militant group operating in seas in neighbouring Philippines.

Abu Sayyaf has taken more than 20 seafarers hostage in recent months, demanding significant ransoms.

“I am 100 percent sure the government has never negotiated in regard to money. But it’s possible the companies did. For the safety of their employees they have negotiated, but this has led to the [repeated abductions],” Kalla said earlier this week. 

Paying ransoms encouraged more kidnappings, Kalla maintained.

Indonesia’s coordinating political, legal and security affairs minister Luhut Pandjaitan urged shipowners to use larger vessels when trading coal to the Philippines as a deterrent.

“The vessels that we use to deliver coal are rather small and susceptible to being hijacked. If we used bigger barges it would be harder [for other groups to take them over],” Luhut said.

The Indonesian government has also suggested owners put armed guards onboard. 

Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines have vowed to up naval patrols in the Sulu and Celebes seas to fight Abu Sayyaf. Splash columnist Andrew Craig-Bennett has described the area as “the next Somalia”.