Paddy Rodgers, the high-profile former chief executive of tanker giant Euronav, has defied industry speculation by making a radical career switch.

He has been appointed the director of Royal Museums Greenwich, the world-renowned group of museums and historic institutions in the south-east London suburb where he lives.

“What is really exciting for me is the museum’s superb reputation and the challenge to build that scope,” said Rodgers, who stepped down from Euronav earlier this year after almost two decades in the post.

Royal Museums Greenwich has been led since 2007 by ebullient Australian Dr Kevin Fewster, who announced in January that he intended to step down in the middle of this year after completing a five-year development plan.

The museum complex has been thoroughly reshaped under Dr Fewster’s leadership and now ranks as the UK's largest cultural attraction outside central London.

In addition to the National Maritime Museum, the complex includes the Royal Observatory, the Queen’s House and the Cutty Sark, plus several regional maritime museums.

Dr Fewster has deepened the links with the commercial shipping sector. Among the museum’s trustees are Alastair Marsh, chief executive of Lloyd's Register; former Cunard boss Carol Marlow; and Jeremy Penn, former chief executive of the Baltic Exchange.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to strengthen the institution’s links with the international shipping community,” Rodgers said.

Dr Fewster told TradeWinds: "I'm delighted to be handing over the helm to my good friend and Greenwich neighbour Paddy Rodgers, whose outstanding reputation in the shipping community and passion for history make him an inspired choice to lead the museum forward."

Rodgers has seen at first hand the museum’s development over the past couple of years after becoming a life patron and helping raise funds for restoration of part of the Royal Observatory.

He remembers first visiting what was then the National Maritime Museum with his father, before taking his own children in recent years.

Rodgers, who has no experience in the museum or gallery sector, having trained as a lawyer, said selection for what is a public sector role focused on skills such as adaptability and leadership.

As for any regrets on leaving the commercial front line of shipping, he laughed but responded succinctly: “No”.

Since his departure from Euronav was unveiled in February, rumours had circulated that Rodgers might reappear as anything from a shipbroking executive, fund advisor or campaigner.

Choice of the Cutty Sark as the venue for a party to celebrate Euronav’s 15 years as a public company later this month is entirely “coincidental”, he added.