A container from China with fake material at Al Jaddaf Drydocks. Image Credit: Atiq-Ur-Rehman/Gulf News

Dubai: Traders in Dubai have received containers full of bricks and stones from China instead of their originally ordered goods, Gulf News can confirm.

Dozens of containers have landed in Jebel Ali port containing bricks instead of the materials ordered such as paper and foodstuff destined for at least two traders who said that they were shocked that the containers reached their warehouses unchecked.

“I was really surprised when I opened the container to see bricks instead of the A4 size paper that I ordered from the Chinese firm. I have contacted the Chinese firm and they have promised to investigate the matter. At this moment, nobody knows how and when the goods were changed and, surprisingly, the container passed the port and reached the warehouse,” said Yousuf Sulaiman, a South African trader based in Dubai.

Sulaiman ordered A4 size paper worth $16,000 (Dh58,000) from Baoding Baolilai Paper Products Company a couple of months ago and the shipment was dispatched last month after he made the full payment.

“I received the shipment on April 13. The container was sealed as usual. We opened the seal and, when I saw the bricks, I immediately called police and after a lot of discussion over the phone the police arrived in the evening. They saw the container but didn’t give me any paper and asked me to approach Dubai Customs,” added Sulaiman, who runs a small trading firm, Gusto Mediterraneo General Trading LLC.

Port authorities in Jebel Ali said they are only responsible for handling the containers and it’s not their job to check the contents.

Dubai Customs has yet to issue an official statement explaining the missing cargo and officials could not be reached immediately for comment.

However, a source inside the port suggested to Gulf News that only certain containers go through scanning and checking processes and the rest are forwarded directly to the consignees.

“In case the containers are earmarked as containing chemicals or food products or if the buyer requests that the container be inspected it is done, otherwise, there is no inspection,” said the source.

Apparently, Sulaiman is not the only trader who was allegedly duped.

Two weeks ago, another company owned by an Egyptian businessman faced a similar situation in which he also received a container full of bricks instead of the A4 size paper that was ordered.

“I received the cargo two weeks ago and, to my surprise, it was not what I ordered. I went from pillar to post to get to the bottom of this but so far I haven’t got any help. The company that I purchased the goods from is not responding. I have claimed insurance and, hopefully, I will be compensated,” said Mohammad Khedr, owner of Khedr International Trading.

Both the containers arrived through China Shipping Line and the company’s representatives on Tuesday visited Sulaiman’s warehouse to inspect the containers and found nothing but bricks.

“We have come across a few of these cases and we are investigating the matter. We are responsible for only delivering the cargo intact. We are not sure how and where the goods were changed,” said a company shipping official, who declined to be named.

Apparently, around 50 more containers of dubious status are lying inside Jebel Ali Port right now — according to sources inside the port. These containers were supposed to have tomato paste from China but instead are filled with crushed stone and bricks.

Khalid Sharif, Director of the Food Control Department at Dubai Municipality, confirmed that there have been several instances when imports at Dubai’s ports were not the ones requested by locally based companies.

“The municipality has inspectors at all ports to ensure that the food entering the country is safe, and follows our required standards,” he said.

“When we come across such shipments, which happens from time to time, the company is fined and the imported goods are sent back to the country of origin. In any circumstances when food is imported or exported, the municipality checks that the goods’ description must match those in the container,” he said.


—With inputs from Mariam M. Al Serkal, Senior Reporter