John Allum

P/T Lecturer (Hrly) - Soc, Crime & Envir

School of Justice, Security and Sustainability

I am a Senior Lecturer in the School of Law, Policing and Forensics. I have a degree in Analytical Chemistry from Plymouth University and a PhD in Emulsion Explosives from Cranfield University. In 2001, I joined Dr J H Burgoynes, working in the UK for 3 years before transferring to Hong Kong in 2004. In 2011, I established my own consultancy, HFS-Asia. I developed the firm from being the sole employee (owner), to a business with 7 employees, investigating fires, explosions, material failures and cargo incidents, with a turnover in excess of £1m a year.

In 2016, I was approached by Hawkins and Associates and following discussions, they purchased HFS-Asia. Following the sale of HFS-Asia, I continued to work for Hawkins in Hong Kong as the Regional Director. I have worked for Hawkins for 3 over years, and having helped establish Hawkins in the marine insurance market, I joined Staffordshire University looking for a new challenge that will utilise both my business development experience, as well as my technical knowledge to help train the next generation of investigators.

In the process of business development, I am regularly invited to present at international conferences and seminars. More recently these have included being a Keynote speaker at FireNZ, presentations at Hazchem Australia, Fire Australia, Salvage and Wreck Singapore (liquefaction and container ship fires), DNV Container safety working group, Australian Institute of Chartered Loss Adjusters (fire and explosion) and Asia Maritime. I also regularly present to P&I clubs, lawyers, loss adjusters and insurers, often as part of their CPD programs.

I have given evidence as an expert witness in numerous cases involving fire investigation and chemical incidents, including in Hong Kong, China, Thailand, Korea, Norway and UK. This has involved attendance in both court and arbitration.

Professional memberships and activities

FRSC - Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry

MIExpE - Member of the Institute of Explosive Engineers

MAE – Member of the Academy of Experts

Academic qualifications

PhD awarded in 2002 from Royal Military College of Science, Cranfield University for research into the behaviour of emulsion explosives

BSc (Hons) Chemistry awarded in 1996 from Plymouth University


  • Fire and explosion investigation
  • Hazardous chemical incidents
  • Use of and investigation into explosives
  • Marine cargoes and shipping incidents
  • Spoliage and self-heating of agricultural cargoes
  • Liquefaction of ship cargoes
  • Shipping fires and hazardous incidents

Research interests

  • Using risk management and investigation strategies to avoid repeating mistakes of the past
  • Fire and explosion investigation
  • Self-heating materials
  • Chemical analysis procedures for unknown residues
  • Sample analysis techniques
  • Testing and review of reactive materials
  • Fertlizer (ammonium nitrate) incidents

Enterprise and commercial interests

Established a new consultancy in 2011 to help service insurers and P&I clubs throughout Asia. Developed the business from a 1 employee / owner operation, into a company that had 6 fee earners and 1 support staff, with a turnover exceeding £1m a year. The majority of the people that I employed at this time were new to the industry and I established a training program to quickly make them a valuable asset to the company

Lead for the marketing and development of marine investigations for the Hawkins group, including giving presentations, training staff and providing quality control checking for the marine work of the group.

Investigation of a wide range of ship fires and explosions, including fires involving engine rooms, accommodation and cargo. Conducted investigations on container ships, tankers, bulk carriers, general cargo vessels and yachts. Provided on-board technical advice on fire fighting and extinguishment of ongoing fires.

 Detailed investigations into chemical cargo contamination incidents, including lubricating oil, toluene, caustic soda, refrigerant gas, butene, methanol, gasoline, aviation fuel and other chemical cargoes. Investigation of a number of chemical incidents ranging from small spillages on-board to major ship fire and contamination incidents. Investigation of marine cargoes has included self-heating of coal, liquefaction investigations of nickel ores, bauxite, iron ores, as well as damage to wheat, soybeans, expellers, soybean oil, menthol crystals, fertilizers and wheat bran pellets.

Investigation of major fire and gas explosion incidents around the world in commercial premises, factories and processes including: oil refinery and petrochemical plant fires; food manufacturing; metal finishing; manufacturers of high-tech goods such as PCBs, LCDs and other IT equipment; heavy engineering; electrical appliances; large retail complexes.

Provided training and lectures to insurance companies, lawyers, loss adjusters, and other experts on fire investigation and report writing. Provided expert reports, and expert witness for criminal and civil litigation cases cargo contamination cases, including natural product spoilage, chemical reactions, liquid and gas cargo contamination, sample taking, interpreting analytical results, and supervising the cleanup. I have provided advice on the storage and use of damaged explosives and the appropriate use of explosives in wreck removal.



  • Fire and explosive investigation
  • Analytical chemistry
  • Expert witness testimony
  • Chemical Principles of Forensic Science;
  • Forensic Investigative Skills;
  • Analysis and Investigation of TEREFF Incidents
  • Digital forensics
  • Independent projects




  • Fire and explosive investigation
  • Analytical chemistry
  • Expert witness testimony
  • Explosives and Terrorisim
  • Hazardous chemicals and major incidents
  • Independent projects
UK University

StudentCrowd University Awards 2022

for Job Prospects

StudentCrowd University Awards 2022

for Student Satisfaction

Complete University Guide 2022

for Social Inclusion

The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2023

for Course Content

StudentCrowd University Awards 2022

of Research Impact is ‘Outstanding’ or ‘Very Considerable’

Research Excellence Framework 2021