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Case Study 1

Bulk and container vessel left N America bound for South Africa. At the first port someone thought there was a burning smell but it couldn't be located. At the final unloading destination it was clear that there was smouldering grain in the fore hold.


What was the cause of the smouldering?

Was any of the malt in the fore hold usable for brewing?

Was the containerised malt in the next hold and the aft bulk malt free of damage?

Maltdoctor acted for the Brewing company insurers


Expert witnesses in fire damage and the shipping line contended that the fire had released nothing toxic and that only the smouldered malt needed to be discarded.  The reason for the fire was not properly established.

Maltdoctor was sent a large dossier of evidence and samples from malt in all thee holds.


The fire damage report had looked for the wrong type of chemicals that would render malt unsuitable and they had used unqualified analysts and erroneous methods

All samples of malt were analysed extensively by Maltdoctor through sensory analysis in randomised trials. In every blind test for the fore hold a gradation of sensory scores for smokiness matched the distance from the fire. Maltdoctor also noticed by enlarging the photographs of the electric control panel that a safety guard was missing from a lower hold light and that light switch was on. This had been missed by 5 other expert witnesses and had caused the smouldering. None of the malt was usable.

For the containerised malt another three sets of samples from inside the containers had detectable smoky notes and the intensity pattern suggested a point of ingress of smoke to the hold which subsequently was matched by the insurers to the vent inlets from the fore hold. None of this malt was usable for brewing lager malt with a low intensity flavour profile.

The sensitivity of Maltdoctor's sensory ability had been certified as detecting exceptionally low levels of smoky aroma and this proved valuable in detecting a low smoky contamination even in bulk malt in the aft hold. Maltdoctor proposed that this malt was not suitable for the brewers lager malt but could be used in a stout or porter because it was minimally tainted but still food safe.

The case was due to go to court with court costs proposed at £400,000, but never proceeded because Maltdoctor's expert testimony and comprehensive expert reports provided evidence and opinion that was deemed incontrovertible. Cargo valued at over $1.8M was unable to be used by the brewer and the blame for the damage proven to lie with the merchant vessel operators.

Loss avoided was $1.8M

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