Belfast plywood importer Tradewood & Co has had to remark dozens of containers of Chinese plywood for “non-structural use” after an investigation found the product had received falsified “CE2+” structural markings in Asia.

Tradewood said it had complied with all requirements of investigating authority Belfast City Council and sent letters to its customers explaining the situation. But Tradewood said the incident had hurt its trading name, despite its innocence.

Jim Byrne, Tradewood financial controller, said 35 containers of 9-25mm BB grade hardwood-faced poplar-core Chinese ply, worth about £300,000, was now sitting in a warehouse and would be sold for non-structural uses, which he said could take a very long time.

“We did not realise anything was wrong until Belfast City Council contacted us while it was being shipped,” said Mr Byrne.

A suspension order was issued and the containers were impounded on arrival at the Port of Belfast, with 10 being stopped in Rotterdam.

“We’ve been promoting CE2+ for a long time, so this has been very detrimental to our trade name,” he said.

“We believe we’re playing by the book and this has really taken us by surprise.”

Tradewood partner David Good is currently out in Asia speaking to the supplier and Chinese plywood manufacturers about the problem.

Mr Byrne said the company had cancelled its Chinese supply contract and would probably source alternative products from Malaysia and Chile.

Belfast City Council spokesperson Mark McGovern said some initial containers had been legitimately shipped to Belfast as CE2+ from a certified mill, but subsequent containers with the same mill’s markings were found to have been produced by other mills without CE2+ certification.

“This case has opened our eyes to the issue. I think it requires a push at central government level or from other organisations to work out how much of it is going on,” said Mr McGovern.

Random checks on plywood containers will be held in Belfast and Derry in conjunction with customs and border authorities. “We’ll be looking at containers coming in and asking to see paperwork which confirms the CE number and making sure the documentation matches the loads.”