The arrival of oil on the shore may be the first indication of an oil pollution incident. Depending on the quantity and type of oil involved, a clean-up response may have to be organised to remove the oil and to prevent it remobilising and affecting sensitive areas nearby. A reliable early report and estimate of the extent of the pollution can prove invaluable in determining the appropriate scale of the clean-up operation and organising adequate manpower and equipment to meet the task. Estimating the amount of stranded oil with accuracy is difficult and even identifying the type of oil can be a problem, particularly if the oil has weathered extensively.
In cases of large spills, the source of stranded oil may be obvious, but the question of identification frequently arises when a small amount of oil is involved and compensation is sought for damage or clean-up costs. The purpose of this paper is to assist the reader in recognising both the type and quantity of oil on differing shorelines.