The eighteen Georgian sailors were captured by Somali pirates in September 2010.

Fifteen Georgian sailors who have been held hostage by Somali pirates for a year and a half are expected to be released in a few hours.

Their release comes after intense negotiations by a an inter-agency commission within the Georgian government and is reported today by Georgian Tv station Imedi.

The 15 were captured in September 2010 along with the three Turkish sailors.

The pirates demanded millions of dollars in ransom, some reports said 15 million, which lead the company which owns the ship Olupel Aiji to break off negotiations, due to the size of the demand.

The government’s inter-agency commission has since been in ‘intense negotiations’ to secure the release of the Georgian sailors. There has so far been no official comment from Georgian authorities.

But according to Imedi, the parties have recently achieved significant progress and as a result there is a high likelihood that the process will lead to the Georgian hostages being released.

In recent years, groups of pirates have been capturing merchant vessels in the waters off the coast of Somalia and demanding ransom. They move using cargo ships, boats, fishing ships and smaller motor boats. The pirates are armed with automatic rifles, mortars and semi-automatic pistols.