Kontena Nasional Berhad talks about how Halal goes beyond food ingredients and it encompasses also storage transportation and handling.
To most of us in Malaysia, Halal is only about food. Halal roughly means anything which is religiously acceptable according to Muslim law and this includes logistics. Recognising what "Halal" encompasses and the importance of it for Muslims, Kontena Nasional Berhad (KNB) became Malaysia's first Halal-certified logistics provider offering a full range of Halal logistics services including Halal transportation, Halal warehousing and Samak services for containers. (Samak is a special cleansing in accordance to the Muslim requirements.)
The certification was granted by the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (JAKIM) about eight years ago and since then, according to Kontena Nasional's Port Klang Branch Manager Mohd Said Harun, KNB had not handled non-Halal goods in its trucks, containers and warehouses.
"If we want to handle non-Halal goods, we must do so through segregation because we do not want contamination to occur. But for KNB, we avoid it because it is too difficult to be 100 percent certain that no spillage, leakage or contamination will happen.
"After we got the certification from JAKIM, we do not handle non-Halal goods at all," he said, adding that although this may sound like a tight restriction, there are in fact very few non-Halal goods compared to Halal ones and that because of awareness, many non-Muslims are starting to prefer Halal services.
"Halal does not only mean food ingredients but it also means strict emphasis on cleanliness which customers of all faiths appreciate," Said added.
When KNB stores foodstuff, for example chocolate, in its warehouse, they must be completely sure that the chocolates are Halal. Firstly, they will check the ingredients and if all of them are permissible, they need to also see a Halal certification. A Halal stamp is not sufficient because in the past, many have been found to be dubious, therefore they need approval from JAKIM. Said said if the chocolates are well-known brands, the job is easier but there are many imported chocolates that were not heard of before that become their priorities.
KNB's integration of Halal and cold chain process is from the farm or producers, all the way to the end consumers. At the producer stage, KN provides pre-cooling storage facilities or cold storage warehouses. Next is the processing plant where processing, packaging, labelling and Halal certification take place. At the cold chain distribution stage, KNB provides Halal reefer trucks, reefer containers, cold storage and warehouse and lastly, to the end consumers who get their food items form markets, wholesalers, retailers and other food service outlets.
Said, who was one of the key individuals who initiated the Halal service movement for KNB, said they have since then indirectly helped JAKIM weed out fraud Halal labels or packaging.
"Just about anybody could print a Halal logo and it is impossible to track all of them down. Since we have to cross check with JAKIM all the time, they are able to catch those who are trying to sneak their way into our markets through our services and data," he added.
In terms of commercial acceptance among distributors, Said said there is not much difference because many customers do not really care much whether the service providers are Halal certified or not, but there are those who picked KNB particularly because of it.
With the more fastidious clients, there are even requests for KNB to perform the "samak" cleansing on the containers and trucks. "Sometimes customers are doubtful, and they do not know what we were transporting before their items, and not wanting to risk it, they ask us to samak our containers which we will gladly do, and we are not the only logistics company that does it as there are now many out there that do so as well," Said said. Although there are many Halal certified logistics companies out there these days, there is still no enforcement for it from the government. "If there is," Said added, "I bet there will be a huge mushrooming of Halal logistics companies, service providers and manufacturers."
However, the certification did trigger awareness among public consumers. "Before this they were well aware of the importance of Halal in terms of food but did not realise that it also matters in logistics," Said said. KNB had even received visits from school and university students who were interested in Halal logistics as their study projects.
Moving forward, KNB will continue to provide consultation of Halal application to relevant authority for consumer food and products manufacturers. Their effort includes providing Halal-based operational guidance and knowledge sharing for local small and medium enterprise. In addition, KNB also provides cross border and multi modal international freight forwarding.