A MAJOR fire broke out in a conveyor belt at Hunterston coal port in North Ayrshire.

Firefighters were called to the scene at 9.45am on Sunday after reports of a "well-developed fire" at the deep water facility.

Thick black smoke could be seen billowing from the site which supplies Longannet power station in Fife and some plants in England.

The fire service said crews from Ardrossan, Largs and Kilmarnock encountered a blaze spreading from within a a ship loader and conveyor system used for loading coal.

Back-up was requested from Dalry and Dreghon Community Fire Stations to assist in dealing with the incident.

No-one was injured and the fire was contained by the afternoon.

At one point firefighters had to be withdrawn to a safe distance due to the partial collapse of a section of the machinery.

The blaze was tackled by a firefighting tug, a high-reach appliance and ground monitors.

The facility, operated by Clydeport, can handle thousands of tonnes of coal an hour.

The damaged loader is thought to supply coal to feeder ships to be transferred to coal-fired power stations in Northern Ireland.