The United Seamen’s Service 54th annual Admiral of the Ocean Sea (AOTOS) Awards will be presented to Mark W. Barker, President of the Interlake Steamship Company, George Pasha, IV, President of The Pasha Group and Adam Vokac, District and National President of the Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association (M.E.B.A.).  The traditional silver statuette of Christopher Columbus – the first Admiral of the Ocean Sea – will be presented at a gala dinner and dance on Friday, December 1, 2023, at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel. American seafarers will also be recognized for heroism and bravery during the event.

For more than half a century, the United Seamen’s Service has annually presented the AOTOS Award, widely regarded as the most prestigious accolade in the maritime sector. This award acknowledges exceptional contributions made by individuals and organizations towards the advancement of American seafarers and the United States’ maritime industry.

LTG Kenneth R. Wykle, USA, (Ret.), USS AOTOS Committee Chairman, noted, “We are proud to acknowledge the AOTOS awardees from the American maritime industry. Mark Barker has a strong sailing background in the trans-Atlantic trades and advocates for maritime interests at both state and national levels. George Pasha, IV has made significant contributions to the maritime industry, especially in the Hawaii market. Adam Vokac has demonstrated exceptional leadership and a dedication to protecting the rights of Merchant Mariners during his extensive M.E.B.A. career. They are an outstanding group of individuals who represent strength, leadership and commitment to the advancement of the American maritime industry.”

Mark W. Barker is the second-generation President of Interlake Steamship Company, the largest privately held shipping company on the Great Lakes. Growing up on the water, he has successfully dedicated much of his career to preserving the maritime heritage of the Great Lakes through the use of technology and environmental stewardship. His namesake vessel, launched in 2002, is the first cargo ship on the Great Lakes to be powered with engines that meet new EPA Tier 4 standards.

At the helm of the 100-year-old, family-owned Interlake Steamship Company, Mr. Barker is leading the organization into the future; the company is now a modern marine transportation business made up of 400 employees. Dedicated to customer service, he believes in delivering on commitments with a customer-first philosophy through the company’s core values of integrity, respect, high performance and accountability.

A true visionary with an eye toward the future, Mr. Barker has demonstrated exceptional leadership skills throughout his impressive career. He is a respected and admired leader in the industry, with a clear voice on maritime interests, including technology, sustainability and American manufacturing as well as advocating for the 150,000 jobs that represent the Great Lakes shipping industry.

Service is at the heart of every enterprise that The Pasha family has launched. With vision, expertise, enthusiasm and an entrepreneurial spirit, George Pasha, IV took over the role of The Pasha Group’s President & CEO from his father in 2008 and continued to grow and diversify in the maritime and transportation sectors. The first Pasha vessel, the Jean Anne, was constructed in 2005 to address an identified need for Ro/Ro and out of gauge cargo vessel capacity between the U.S. mainland and Hawaii.

The Pasha Group’s rapid growth in the maritime business unit came in 2015 with the acquisition of Horizon Lines’ US Jones Act container service in Hawaii. Mr. Pasha demonstrated steady leadership throughout the transition, directly engaging with employees, customers and stakeholders to set expectations, deliver on commitments and help transition new associates into the organization.

In 2018, the shipbuilding kicked off again as the company embarked on the path of investing in cleaner maritime fuels to serve this U.S. market, initiating a new design to specifically meet the needs of Honolulu’s harbor. The Pasha family’s commitment to the region will ensure that the state of Hawaii will be well served with US flag carrier Pasha Hawaii for decades to come.

As the District and National President of the Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association (M.E.B.A.), the premier maritime labor union for the officers of the United States Merchant Marine, Adam Vokac is dedicated to protecting the union’s membership, a large and diverse mix of engineers and deck officers, experienced and skilled in all aspects of the maritime workforce. Prior to his current role, which he has had since 2021, Mr. Vokac also served as Executive Vice President for seven years as well as a union representative at the Port of Honolulu. Mr. Vokac has a long history of vigorously fighting to maintain and strengthen contracts as well as look for opportunities to increase membership.

Understanding the balance of keeping positive relationships with employers while simultaneously pushing back to preserve hard fought gains, Mr. Vokac has earned the respect of both union members and management. Consistently looking to the future, Mr. Vokac is committed to modernizing the M.E.B.A. while maintaining the union’s core principles and building on its track record of readiness, safety and loyalty.

Mr. Vokac has been a long-time dedicated supporter of the maritime industry. Upon graduating as valedictorian from the United States Merchant Marine Academy at King’s Point in 2000, he went to the nearest M.E.B.A. hall and joined the union that same day. His dedication to the maritime industry is demonstrated by his commitment to the M.E.B.A., his extensive shipping career and his fervent support of the laws and programs that keep the industry strong.

Proceeds from the AOTOS event benefit USS community services abroad for the U.S. merchant marine, seafarers of all nations, and U.S. government and military members overseas. For AOTOS 2023, David W. Heindel, President of the Seafarers International Union, will serve as Dinner Chairman. F. Anthony Naccarato of American Maritime Officers Service and Joseph J. Cox, Cox Maritime LLC will be serving as National Committee Co-Chairmen. USS is led by President Edward R. Morgan and Executive Director Roger T. Korner.

For inquiries regarding the gala, tickets, and advertising in the journal, please reach out to the USS AOTOS Coordinators Barbara Yeninas, Lisa Aurichio or June Chin at aotos@bsya.com or (732) 817-0400. To directly contact USS, kindly call (201) 369-1100.

Source: United Seamen’s Service