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PM Lee on Frank Tsao: He played a big role in shaping Singapore’s shipping industry

SINGAPORE — Describing the late shipping magnate Frank Tsao as a “longstanding and good friend” of Singapore, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Thursday (Aug 15) paid tribute to his contributions to the country.

PM Lee on Frank Tsao: He played a big role in shaping Singapore’s shipping industry

Shipping tycoon Frank Tsao (left) and Mr Ratan N Tata (right), chairman of Indian conglomerate Tata Sons, receiving the Honorary Citizen Award from the Singapore Government in August 2008. It is the highest form of recognition for their outstanding contributions to Singapore's growth and development.

SINGAPORE — Describing the late shipping magnate Frank Tsao as a “longstanding and good friend” of Singapore, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Thursday (Aug 15) paid tribute to his contributions to the country.

The Shanghai-born tycoon — who died here on Monday at the age of 94 — had “played a big part to develop capability and attract talent” to the shipping industry here, Mr Lee said.

In a condolence letter sent to Tsao’s son Frederick Tsao, Mr Lee said that Tsao was a “respected leader” in the shipping industry, who regularly advised the Singapore Government on its maritime industry policies.

“He was a firm believer in Singapore’s potential,” Mr Lee added.

For instance, Tsao relocated the operational headquarters of his shipping firm International Maritime Carriers Group from Hong Kong to Singapore in 1991. This gave Singapore a much-needed boost at a time when it was planning to expand its port capacity.

Tsao also played a role in building up capability and attracting talent to the industry by supporting the setup of the Centre for Maritime Studies at the National University of Singapore (NUS).

He helped to establish the permanent secretariat of the Asian Shipowners Forum, an avenue for companies to voice out issues pertaining to the shipping industry.

“Through these efforts, he boosted our plans to grow Singapore into a leading international maritime centre,” Mr Lee said.

Two days after his death due to kidney failure, tributes poured in for the shipping veteran, with friends and associates describing him as “a giant of a man” who helped Singapore become the international maritime hub it is today. 

He is survived by his four children. His wife Maisie Chow Tsao died in Dec 2014.

In recognition of his contributions to Singapore, Tsao was awarded the Honorary Citizen Award by the Government in 2008, the highest honour given to non-Singaporeans.

Aside from the shipping industry, Tsao also made an impact on Singapore’s real estate scene.

Mr Lee cited the example of how he led the consortium of Hong Kong companies that built Suntec City.

“It was a major investment and a strong statement of their confidence in Singapore. Frank and his team then made Suntec a vibrant centre of commerce and a hub for meetings, conventions and exhibitions.”

He “contributed greatly to our society” by establishing the Tsao Foundation, Mr Lee said, adding that the foundation “has provided care and support for many elderly in Singapore and partners the Government to implement many active-ageing initiatives”.

“Frank has made many contributions to our community over the years… We considered him one of us.”

Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan remembered that the late tycoon was “always generous with his advice” on how to grow the maritime industry here, linking the Government with important business networks, pointing out emerging opportunities and “suggesting how we could turn them to benefit” Singapore.

Posting on his Facebook page on Thursday, Mr Khaw said: “He was optimistic about Singapore’s future and invested significantly.”

In a statement to TODAY, Professor Andrew Lim, the director of NUS’ Centre for Maritime Studies, said that Tsao “was a strong advocate of maritime education and research”.

As the centre’s first chairman, he oversaw its development as a maritime think-tank to meet the information and research needs of the maritime industries locally and internationally, he added.

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Frank Tsao Lee Hsien Loong tribute shipping Suntec City International Maritime Carriers

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