Spontaneous combustion of Alfalfa aboard the M/V “RALPH MISENER - 19th December 2013

“Dr Lygate[is] an internationally-recognized fire investigator with extensive formal fire engineering qualifications.

Dr Lygate, in his rebuttal report and in his viva voce evidence, addressed this possibility and concluded that it is extremely unlikely that a discarded cigarette could have ignited this fire (See para. 4.20 of his report, dated March 8, 2002). The laboratory experiments conducted on behalf of Dr Lygate and the reasons he gives in support of his conclusion appear to me convincing, and I therefore accept his opinion on this point.

Dr Lygate pointed to the fact that during the discharge of the cargo, clumps were observed throughout the stow and from parts of the hold where it was unlikely that firefighting water could have reached. At paragraph 5.3.16 of his report-in-chief, Dr Lygate makes the following statement which, in my view, is entirely supported by the evidence:

Instead, what appears to have happened is that the hatch covers having been removed, air was admitted to the cargo and diffused through the pellets to the seat of the fire. The improved air supply encouraged the rate of smouldering to grow, until the combustion products were given off at sufficient rate that the fire was discovered at 1740 hrs. In my opinion, this is consistent with a deep-seated which was the result of spontaneous heating because the pellets were too moist”.

Judge Nadon Federal Court of Canada

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