An oil tanker has sparked fears of an environmental spill after it ran aground at the entrance to Inverness harbour.

The Mersey Fisher was carrying a load of oil bound for Inverness when the accident happened early yesterday (mon).

It was pulled free by the Helen Burnie, a Mull based tug which was in the area.

An Aberdeen Coastguard spokeswoman said: "It was reported to us by the ship at 1.30am that they had gone aground at Carnarc Point, at the entrance to Inverness harbour.

"There were eight people on board. As far as we are aware there is no damage and no pollution."

Inverness Harbour Authority got the rescue tow underway, by asking the Helen Burnie, a tug vessel belonging to Inverlussa Marine Services, to help.

The coastguard then sent its local team to observe, in case further assistance was needed.

Inverness Harbour Authority confirmed that the Mersey Fisher was carrying oil bound for Inverness when it went aground.

The coastguard spokesman said: "We have no idea what happened, that will probably come out in the investigation, the Marine Accident Investigation Branch will do that."

Ben Wilson, managing director of Inverlussa Marine Services, said: "There were no other tugs in the area so Inverness Harbour Authority asked the Helen Burnie to go and help.

"It took about 45 minutes, but they managed to get the vessel free."

Sinclair Browne, chief executive of the Port of Inverness, said: "A tanker briefly ran aground in the early hours of Monday morning.

"After an hour the vessel was successfully refloated and spent the night berthed at the Port. There was no pollution, no-one was injured and there was no danger to wildlife."

The 300ft long Mersey Fisher is part of the Barrow-in-Furnace based James Fisher fleet.

Earlier this month the Fri Sea cargo ship ran aground as it tried to dock at Corpach, near Fort William and last month the Lysblink Seaways cargo ship ran aground at Kilchoan.