Frank Tsao Wen-king, founder of Singapore’s IMC Group, and one of the most renowned pioneers in Asian shipping history, died in Singapore yesterday, aged 94.
Born in Shanghai in 1925, Tsao started his career working in family-owned businesses in banking, shipping and trading in Shanghai and moved to Hong Kong with his family after the Second World War.
In Hong Kong, he co-founded Great Southern Steamship in 1949, was one of the co-founders of the Hong Kong Shipowners Association (HKSOA) and went on to establish International Maritime Carriers (IMC) in 1966, a company that has since diversified into many sectors including commodities, yards and property.
In the mid-1990s, Frank Tsao’s son, Chavalit Frederick Tsao, succeeded him as the chairman of the IMC Group.
Early on in the 21st century, the Tsaos took the decision to relocate their business from Hong Kong to Singapore.
Throughout his long career, Tsao played a pivotal role in promoting the maritime industry in Asia, having assisted Malaysia in setting up the country’s first national shipping line – Malaysian International Shipping Corporation (MISC) in 1968. He was also chairman of the HKSOA as well as helping to establish the Centre for Maritime Studies at the National University of Singapore (NUS). He also served as chairman of Intercargo for seven years.
IMC Group currently owns, either fully or through joint ventures, a substantial and diverse fleet, made up of five bulk carriers and 21 tankers.
Among many awards during his lifetime, Tsao became the first Asian to be nominated for the CMA Commodore Award in Stamford, Connecticut.