My first stop upon arriving in Singapore was the Menashe Meyer Shul to daven shacharis. There I met my good friend Rabbi Mordechai Abergel, who spent years helping the Jewish community grow into a vibrant frum community. That afternoon I went to make an initial visit at a port facility in Singapore. A company in Malaysia, certified by the OK, wanted to ship ingredients to another OK certified company in Singapore by boat. As part of the shipping process, the company wanted to use a storage facility located on Jurong Island, Singapore.
Jurong Island has very strict security protocols due to terrorist concerns, so even getting onto the island is process in itself! The security there is stricter than getting through the Singapore border and customs! We had to notify the security personnel in advance that we planned to come to Jurong Island.
Port facilities are part of the shipping chain in the liquid product industry. Liquids (in this case oleo chemicals) are shipped either in drums or other bulk methods and can be stored in various places. There are different types of bulk transport methods. As mentioned in previous articles,1 liquid products can be shipped in huge deep sea vessels and are often offloaded to barges that can go enter rivers or canals (Holland for example) which are not deep enough for deep sea vessels. Liquids are also transported in rail cars or road tankers that we often see driving around the city or on highways.
When a shipping boat comes to a city it first arrives at a port to offload its contents. There are two methods for offloading – directly onto barges, or into tank farms. The OK has a long history in dealing with international tank farms. The OK was the first kosher supervision agency that went to Rotterdam, in Europe, and set up the major tanks farms with systems to monitor kosher shipments.
There are multiple steps necessary in order to set up a proper system for the transport and storage of kosher products. First, we need to monitor the incoming products. In this case, the product was an oleo chemical from Malaysia that transported by boat. We need to know the cargo history of the ship to discern what products were held in the vessel prior to the kosher product. In some cases, the previous cargo requires the holding vessel to be properly kosherized. Then, we have to see how the product is offloaded. In Rotterdam, for example, we can actually monitor the incoming products and the lines and pumps used to transport them to storage vessels through the port’s computer system.
We also monitor the holding tanks to ensure that the tanks used for certified products are kosher approved. The previous cargo load history is constantly monitored and tanks are sealed with identifying tags to maintain the kosher status of the product.
Complete cooperation from OK certified companies is essential to the certification of bulk liquid through the transportation and storage process. In addition to the kosher certified products, we need the company to provide information about the other product stored in the facility. In this particular facility, we first sat down and familiarized ourselves with the setup in the storage area. This included finding out how many tanks there were, what is stored in all the tanks and the possibility (if any) of cross-contamination. Companies are of course hesitant to give out this type of information and sometimes we must "convince" them of the necessity of being open with us.
After we received our "education" concerning the above we went for a field trip. This included going to the actual port where the boats unload to see which lines would be dedicated for kosher. Then we had to follow the lines and pumps to each holding tank. That morning there had been a heavy tropical rain (quite frequent in this area) and some of the areas where flooded so it was not an easy task to follow the lines. After ascertaining the above information we now had to inspect the outgoing shipment area. (The same way bulk products come into the facility by boat, they must also ship out by tanker.) We had to see how many lines there were for shipping out and which line would be used for our kosher product. We also had to verify what mode of transport would be used to deliver the product to our company.
The OK was the first agency to set up the major tanks farms with systems to monitor kosher shipments…
During our investigation we received the list of all the products stored at the facility on Jurong Island. It was not just a few different products, but almost one hundred different products! We then needed to review the list to see if the other stored products were acceptable or did they necessitate the segregation of kosher and non-kosher products.
The next few days were spent across the causeway from Singapore, in a city called Pasir Gudang, Malaysia, where we have many oleo chemical plants. As mentioned in my last article, when I first started visiting Malaysia we had a few plants in the northern end of the country near the capital city of Kuala Lumpur. Today many of the Malaysian plants we certify are in Pasir Gudang. They include plain oil refineries, oleo chemical plants, hardened oil and margarine plants, biodiesel plants (although they produce fuel, glycerin is a byproduct) and other oil related facilities.
On Friday I visited some plants in Singapore, one of which produces stearates. Stearates are used in many medicines and tablets to help the tablets slip the through the production machinery without sticking to the machines. Stearic acid requires kosher certification because it can be produced either from plant or animal sources.
Shabbos was interesting for me as I had just been informed that my daughter in Florida had a baby boy on Thursday night. The Abergels, with whom I stayed for Shabbos, were gracious enough to make a Sholom Zachor for in honor of my grandson. It interesting to note that my grandson had Sholom Zachors held for him worldwide — one in Florida where he lives, one in Israel where his grandmother lives, one in Brooklyn made by my wife, and one in Singapore! Thank G-d, I was able to make it home in time for the bris.
Editor’s Note: Throughout our many travels to the Far East and Europe, the OK have pioneered kosher supervision methods for bulk liquid transport and storage. The OK is the leader in implementing strict regulation systems to monitor and kosherize bulk transport and storage tankers, lines and cargo holds. When you see the OK symbol on an oil based product, you can be assured that no stone was left unturned or unmonitored during the production, transport and storage of the product.