In our last issue (Elul / Tishrei 2007), we discussed the many intricacies and difficulties of transporting kosher products in bulk via trucks, trains or tankers. We described, in detail, the problems involved when bulk shipments of liquids from the Far East are shipped in large tankers (called ISO tanks) or in ship hold compartments. ISO tanks are manufactured according to specifications from the International Standards Organization (ISO) and are suitable for multiple transportation methods such as truck and rail, or rail and ship.
In the last few years, OK Kosher Certification has taken a leading role in the effort to track these shipments and ensure that kosher product is shipped in acceptable tanks that will not affect the kosher status of the product. A Kosher Certificate must accompany each shipment for transport, certifying that the OK has approved the tank. Only tanks that have been steam-cleaned at a temperature of at least 100° C (212° F) for at least ½ hour, and whose previous three cargoes did not contain any non-kosher material, can be approved.
The steam cleaning process can be carried out in multiple ways. For a ship’s compartment, built-in steam pipes flood the compartment with steam, while an ISO tank is steam cleaned by inserting a pipe, with a steam ball attached to the end that floods the tank with steam. The steam ball is a metal ball with many holes, which rotates to distribute the stream onto every surface of the tank. An independent inspector, known as a surveyor, who is monitored by a regulating agency, ensures that the tank or compartment is clean, steamed to 100° C (212° F) and approved for loading, must corroborate the cleaning information.
Since it is not possible to have a Mashgiach present at every bulk loading (there are hundreds each week!), an in-depth review of the shipping documentation is necessary in order to assure that our standards are met. OK personnel developed the detailed three-step procedure described here1, and a full-time position was created in our office to process the dozens of applications we receive each day.
“Application for Loading of ISO Tank or Ship’s Compartment”
Companies shipping bulk products must send an application to the OK office for EACH load to be certified. Here is an example of some of the information contained on an application:
• The application date
• The name of the company
• The name of the certified product (as it appears on the kosher certificate)
• The product K-ID (Each product certified by OK Kosher has a unique 7-letter ID, called a K-ID).The K-ID on the Kosher Transport Certificate must match the K-ID on the product’s kosher certificate.
• The amount of product being shipped in this ISO?tank of Ship Compartment.
• The number of the ISO tank, or if the product is being shipped in a ship hold compartment, the name of the ship, the voyage number, and the compartment number.
• The history detail of the three immediate previous cargoes of this tank or vessel.
Each application must be submitted together with an independent surveyor’s report and a report certifying that the tank was steam cleaned.
“Approval for LOADING of ISO tank or Ship’s Compartment”
An OK rabbi reviews each application. If the three previous cargos are acceptable, and the tank has been adequately steam cleaned, an Approval for Loading of ISO Tank or Ship’s Compartment (for the abovementioned request), with the Rabbi’s signature, is issued and sent back to the company. This approval is NOT a kosher certificate, but allows them to load their product into the Iso tank or Ship Compartment.
Often, the Rabbi will have questions regarding the application (e.g. the derivation of one of the previous cargos), or perhaps the application is incomplete. In this case, a request for information is sent to the company, and the Loading Approval is not issued until all questions have been answered satisfactorily.
“Kosher Certificate for Transport”
After the product has been loaded, the company returns the Loading Approval form to our office, indicating the seal numbers that have been placed on the ISO Tank or Ship Compartment. We then issue a Kosher Certificate for Transport for the product, transported in the approved ISO Tank or Ship Compartment with the indicated seal numbers. This certificate must accompany the load when it arrives at its destination, and the Mashgiach there will check to make sure all details match before allowing the product to be unloaded.
The OK currently certifies over 30 companies in the Far East whose products are bulk-shipped all over the world. Applications arrive in our office on a daily basis, and the numbers are constantly increasing. Kosher consumers can rest assured that the transport of OK-certified products is vigilantly monitored, maintaining the kashrus integrity of these products until they reach their final destinations.
In addition, the OK maintains a reference list of all previous cargoes that are submitted to us, which are classified into three categories:
1. APPROVED Products that can automatically be approved for previous cargoes. A sub-category of this is products that are also automatically approved for Passover-certified shipments.
2. DENIED Products that are always non-kosher and cannot be approved.
3. REQUEST DERIVATION Products that could be kosher or non-kosher. Examples include:
• All oleo-chemicals (oil based chemicals), which can be derived from either oil or animal fat.
• Alcohols are either starch or sugar based. Sugar can come from various sources and cane sugar and beet sugar are acceptable sources. Lactose is dairy and also has the issue of non-cholov Yisroel. Some alcohols can be made from wine, which is obviously not acceptable for kosher.
• Whiskey, since it could be cognac or brandy, which are wine based.
A sub-category of this is products that are automatically acceptable as Kosher Pareve, but may have a chometz source, and therefore need a derivation in order to be approved for Passover loads.
Much work has been done to develop the list of ISO tank requirements over the years and the protocol and reference list are constantly updated, ensuring traceability and transparency. As you can see, kosher supervision is not only ensuring that a mashgiach is present and that the ingredients are kosher, but there is much paperwork involved to make certain that every step of the protocol is followed and that kashrus is never compromised.
Special thanks to Rabbi Levi Y. Garelik, Mrs. Chasha Brownstein and Mrs. Estee Butman, who spent many hours developing and perfecting this system.