The navy of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) seized two tankers in the Middle East Gulf on Wednesday, local media and maritime security consultants said.

The unidentified vessels, which Iran accuses of smuggling, were carrying 4.5m litres of fuel in total when they were arrested near Abu Musa, an island halfway between Iran and Dubai.

Both vessels, their cargo and 34 non-Iranian seafarers employed on them are under detention, Press TV said, citing a senior IRGC officer.

The size of the ships’ cargo, reported by Iranian media to be a little more than 2m litres each, suggests these are small tankers.

They were detained in a “rapid reaction operation” after a three-day IRGC surveillance operation.

Ambrey Analytics said one of the ships is flying the flag of the Cook Islands and probably has Prime Tankers LLC as its technical manager.

Vessels managed by Prime Tankers LLC have been involved in similar incidents with Iranian authorities before. Managers of the Dubai-based company were not immediately contactable for comment.

Prime Tankers LLC is not in any way connected with Prime Tanker Management, a company based in Athens.

Fuel smuggling in the area has often given Iranian authorities cause to carry out detentions.

Iran, on the other hand, is also known to be invoking smuggling or other reasons to seize ships in above-board trades.

A Greek-managed VLCC and a Turkish-managed suezmax have been in Iranian captivity for months, partly in reprisals over US moves to seize and sell off Iranian oil cargos.

Gary Dixon contributed to this article