Harley Marine Services announced yesterday that Harley Franco, its founder and chief executive officer, has been relieved of his duties.

The Seattle-based marine transportation services company said in a press release that Matt Godden would remain as president Harley Marine, and Jon Foster was named the "successor Chairman of the Board of Directors."

Harley Franco. Harley Marine Services photo

Harley Franco. Harley Marine Services photo

“Since the beginning of 2019, Harley Marine has made significant progress in ensuring its long-term stability as one of the nation’s leading marine transportation providers” Godden said in a prepared statement. “Harley Marine is renowned for its track record in safety and operational capabilities and we intend to continue with this unparalleled commitment to quality.”

"We believe that Matt, his leadership team, and all employees will aggressively move the company forward, effectively serving our valued customers across the country," Foster said in a statement. "The company, Matt and his leadership team, are well prepared to take advantage of the opportunities arising from the rapid changes in our industry.”

The Seattle Times reported yesterday that the company "has been roiled since last summer by a legal battle between Franco on one side and Godden and Australian investment firm Macquarie, a large minority shareholder, on the other." A spokeswoman for Franco told the Times that he would not comment, citing the ongoing litigation. Harley Marine did not respond to a request for comment from WorkBoat.

According to the Seattle Times report, dueling lawsuits were filed last summer. In one, Franco accused Macquarie and Godden of trying to oust him because he was against any plans to sell the company that he founded, and the Australian company and Godden accused him of misappropriating company assets and charging personal expenses to Harley Marine.

Franco founded the business in 1987 after he recognized the need for a customer oriented marine transportation company in Puget Sound. Franco started his business with one leased tug and barge under the name Olympic Tug & Barge Inc. and slowly built the company by instituting quality operating, procedures and safety and environmental protection standards, according to Harley Marine's website.

In 1992, Olympic Tug expanded its fleet to four tugs and three barges that operated on Puget Sound. In 1994, Olympic Tug expanded again, this time to provide bunkering and lube oil services in the Columbia and Willamette rivers outside of Portland, Ore. In 1995, Olympic Tug expanded into dry bulk transportation and deck barge services.

In 1998, Harley Marine Services was formed as a holding company for acquisitions in the marine services field.

Today, Harley Marine is a leading provider of marine transportation services in the U.S., with operations along the West Coast (including Alaska and Hawaii), East Coast and the Gulf Coast. Services include the transportation and storage of petroleum products, ship assist and escort, the transportation of general cargo and rescue towing.

David Krapf has been editor of WorkBoat, the nation’s leading trade magazine for the inland and coastal waterways industry, since 1999. He is responsible for overseeing the editorial direction of the publication. Krapf has been in the publishing industry since 1987, beginning as a reporter and editor with daily and weekly newspapers in the Houston area. He also was the editor of a transportation industry daily in New Orleans before joining WorkBoat as a contributing editor in 1992. He has been covering the transportation industry since 1989, and has a degree in business administration from the State University of New York at Oswego, and also studied journalism at the University of Houston.