Britannia, as few will need reminding, no longer rules the waves. It does, however, have the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich. Yet while Britain's merchant fleet may have stopped growing, the museum's collection clearly hasn't - it only has space to display under a quarter of its two million items. An extension is out of the question (the museum is considered one of the finest palaces in Europe). Instead, a scheme has been proposed to build a dome over the palace's inner courtyard. The catch, as ever, is the cost - £10 million.
Enter Paul Slater, formerly a lowly number-cruncher with P and O, now a shipping tycoon, based in Florida. Harbouring the desire 'to establish a permanent link between Greenwich and the international shipping community', Slater agreed to head the Neptune Foundation, set up to seek funds for the scheme.
He is well-qualified. Over the past 10 years his company, First International Group, has secured an estimated $2 billion to finance new ships and transport projects around the world. Today the company, owned by a group of private investors, has assets of $370 million and annual revenues of over $50 million. Last year it struck a deal with Shell to build six new vessels in Korea for long-term charter.
Slater persuaded major US institutions that the deal was sound enough for $240 million to be raised on the long-term debt market. His new role is rather different: 'It will be interesting to see if I can get people to give me money instead of lending it.'.