Pasha, Vokac, and Barker receive prestigious 54th annual USS Admiral of the Ocean Sea Awards

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

(L-R): George Pasha, IV and fellow AOTOS Honorees Adam Vokac and Mark Barker.

United Seamen’s Service’s 54th annual Admiral of the Ocean Sea (AOTOS) Awards were presented to Mark W. Barker, President of Interlake Maritime Services; George Pasha IV, President and CEO 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, was presented to the three esteemed honorees before a crowd of nearly 600 people at a gala event held on December 1st, at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel in New York City. Alongside the recipients, a distinguished group of American seafarers were also recognized for their courageous acts at sea.

As the evening's host, LTG Kenneth R. Wykle, USA, (Ret.) and Chairman of the USS AOTOS Committee, noted, “We honor the achievements of these deserving individuals whose worthy contributions to the industry have left an indelible mark. All three of our recipients are accomplished, well-known leaders and it is our privilege to recognize them with AOTOS Awards this year.”

In front of an enthusiastic audience, the recipients expressed their gratitude towards family, friends, mentors, and the USS in their acceptance speeches. They also each addressed the challenges and opportunities within the logistics and supply chain industry.

During his speech, Mark W. Barker emphasized the significance of the Great Lakes supply chain: “The Great Lakes is sometimes overlooked, but it is an essential part of our merchant fleet. How important is Great Lake shipping? The US Department of Homeland Security has said that if our Laker vessel supply chain was interrupted for six months, the entire North American economy would plunge into a recession. The Great Lake steel-making supply chain ranks as one of the nation's most critical supply chains in the world.”

Barker added: “The seafarer's role is crucial in delivering essential raw materials to our manufacturing heartland and the Great Lakes. With a team of over 200 dedicated mariners, we ensure that our customers receive these vital materials to keep our country running. And, as such, we are grateful to the United Seamen's Service for recognizing our efforts and for the invaluable global support provided to the mariner community.”

George Pasha, IV, addressed the persistent issue of the maritime worker shortage “We need additional investment in training and schooling of our mariner work force, including funding for high school and pre-high school programs. We need to lower barriers for entry for our seafarers and to allow for our service members to transition into commercial roles more easily. It is crucial for this administration to communicate the significance and value of these well-paying jobs and to actively support the unions and employers in recruiting and retaining these essential positions.”

Pasha also expressed his profound respect for the seafarers and the United Seamen's Service, stating: "We extend our gratitude to our hardworking mariners who tirelessly carry out heroic duties to ensure the ships remain safe and reliably on time. We also honor the work of United Seamen's Service in providing comfort and assistance to our mariners worldwide."

Adam Vokac emphasized: “We have the opportunity to build a better maritime industry. The M.E.B.A and its members are willing and ready to face any challenges that come their way. True mariners and longshoremen will always be a vital presence at the docks, ready to work, regardless of any crisis, conflict, or danger. Can we expect the same level of dedication from a robot made in China? American mariners and longshoremen play a crucial role in upholding resilience during national crises, and it is crucial to never lose sight of this fact.”

Vokac added: "We must always remember that our collective strength comes with the responsibility to dream big, tackle significant challenges, and work collaboratively to chart the big voyages necessary to transform those concepts into reality."

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 overseas. President Edward R. Morgan and Executive Director Roger T. Korner lead USS, while Barbara Spector Yeninas Associates serves as AOTOS Event Coordinator.

As appeared in AJOT