Pamela Zaresk, the former director of U.S. Customs and Border Protection for South Carolina and central Florida, is the new president of the Maritime Association of South Carolina.

Zaresk, a Charleston resident, retired from Customs in 2008 after 35 years, but she just can’t stay retired. After leaving Customs she headed off to Malaysia, working with governments there on export-control issues on behalf of the U.S. State Department.

Now she is taking the top job at the nonprofit advocate for the Port of Charleston, following the retirement of John Hassell, who ran the association for the past 18 years.

“Maritime is just in my blood,” Zaresk said Tuesday. “It’s delightful to be back in the mix.”

Hassell, who also was the interim CEO of the State Ports Authority in 2009 during the search for new leadership the led to the hiring of current chief executive Jim Newsome, said he is looking forward to having more time for grandchildren, yard work and volunteer activities.

He said Tuesday that Zaresk is “known and respected” in the port community through her work with Customs, and will do a fine job.

Zaresk arrived in Charleston in 2002, toward the end of a long government career that began when she was an 18-year-old Capitol Hill staff member.

She joined the former U.S. Customs Service and sought positions in the field rather than behind a desk.

Early on she was a dock inspector in Newark, N.J. Later she worked in Miami, matching wits with cocaine smugglers. Zaresk said she hopes to be on the road often with the Maritime Association, visiting with businesses around the state that have economic ties to the port.

“Our role is to be an advocate and a voice for all the people who do business in and around the waterfront,” she said. “Our membership ranges from people handling ropes on the dock to attorneys handling maritime law, and businesses that use the port for importing and exporting.”

The association has been representing the port’s interests since 1926.

Two current high-profile issues involve the cruise ship business and the proposed deepening of the Charleston shipping lane, both of which the association supports.