The late shipping magnate Tan Sri Frank Tsao was a longstanding and good friend to Singapore, and played a big part in developing capability in and attracting talent to the maritime industry, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.
"A respected leader in the shipping industry, Frank regularly advised the Government on our maritime industry policies. He was a firm believer in Singapore's potential," he wrote in a condolence letter to Mr Tsao's son Frederick.
Mr Tsao, who died in Singapore on Monday at the age of 94, was born in Shanghai and moved to Hong Kong in his 20s.
He moved the operational headquarters of the International Maritime Carriers (IMC) Group from Hong Kong to Singapore in 1991. This gave Singapore a boost at a time when it was planning to invest in the expansion of its port capacity, PM Lee said.
Mr Tsao also supported the establishment of the Centre for Maritime Studies at the National University of Singapore, and helped set up the permanent secretariat of the Asian Shipowners Forum here.
"Through these efforts, he boosted our plans to grow Singapore into a leading international maritime centre," PM Lee added.
Mr Tsao was also founding chairman of Suntec City Development, and led the consortium of Hong Kong companies that built Suntec City. He and his team made Suntec a vibrant centre of commerce and a hub for meetings, conventions and exhibitions, PM Lee said.
"It was a major investment, and a strong statement of their confidence in Singapore."
In 1996, Singapore successfully hosted the World Trade Organisation Ministerial Conference at Suntec City, just a year after its opening.
"Frank instructed his team to give the conference full support, and personally checked on progress," PM Lee said, adding that many delegations left with a favourable impression of Singapore because of the hospitality of Mr Tsao and his team.
Beyond shipping and real estate, PM Lee said, Mr Tsao contributed greatly to Singapore through the Tsao Foundation, which has provided care and support for many elders, and partners the Government on active ageing initiatives.
Mr Tsao's late mother, Mrs Tsao Ng Yu Shun, set up the non-profit foundation in 1993 to help seniors in Singapore stay healthy and independent. The foundation is now chaired by his daughter, Dr Mary Ann Tsao.
Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan also made a Facebook post yesterday expressing his condolences to Mr Tsao's family.
"He was always generous with his advice on how to grow Maritime Singapore, linking us to important business networks, pointing out emerging opportunities and suggesting how we could turn them to benefit Singapore," he wrote.
"He was optimistic about Singapore's future and invested significantly," said Mr Khaw, who added that Mr Tsao was not just a business partner, but also a great friend of Singapore.
In his letter, PM Lee said Mr Tsao has made many contributions to Singapore's community over the years. Mr Tsao was conferred honorary citizenship in 2008 - the highest honour that can be given to a non-Singaporean. Said PM Lee: "We considered him one of us."