Visa restrictions are costing the UK’s superyacht industry tens of millions of pounds a year because potential customers cannot easily visit Britain to view boats.

The British Marine Federation says the current visa system with its lengthy application process and fingerprinting is sending buyers to European competitors. The British leisure marine industry generates 2.9bn pounds a year in turnover with overseas markets representing the greatest growth potential.

The Home Office maintains that its Chinese visa system is providing excellent service and stresses the importance of ongoing improvements and border security.

UK manufacturers Sunseeker and Princess are among those affected. Sunseeker builds 200 boats a year, from 300,000 to 22m pounds each, at its Poole shipyard. Princess Yachts International builds about 300 luxury motor yachts a year, from 300,000 to 15m pounds, and says it is finding it hard to reach customers in China and Russia while it is losing sales to Italian and French yards.