There it was, an email press release with one word across the top, all caps, bold: CENTERLINE. Underneath was the announcement that Harley Marine Services will no longer bear the Harley name. From now on, it’s Centerline Logistics Corp.

Goodbye, Harley.

I don’t know exactly what happened at Harley Marine, but it sounds pretty ugly. Harley Franco, the founder of the company, seems to have gotten crosswise with some investors and charges about financial malfeasance were thrown about. Ultimately, Harley was shown the door and now the company has been renamed.

I always liked Harley. I interviewed him several times over the years and attended quite a few functions at his environmentally built “world headquarters” in Seattle, where the lobby has a saltwater pool and a grand piano. Harley used to park his Bentley convertible out front, but his parking space has now probably been assigned to Matt Godden, the new CEO.

Harley liked to party. He’d often celebrate new tugs and barges with catered events at his waterfront headquarters. For a while, he had Boy Scout color guards at these parties. And with the downtown Seattle waterfront in the background, the setting was perfect.

He was — and may still be — a philanthropist who supported many medical non-profits, including the Muscular Dystrophy Association. He named boats after people he admired and family members, too. He would get sentimental and sometimes weep a little at the mic.

Harley didn’t have a maritime background, as far as I know. He was a lawyer and businessman who bought a used tug or two and built from there. He was certainly aggressive in developing markets and probably drove executives at Foss and Crowley crazy. He was good for shipyards, though, from the Gulf to the Pacific Northwest.

According to the press release, “The name change follows a ratings affirmation of the company’s senior credit facility by Kroll Bond Rating Agency on December 16, 2019, which removed its previous watch downgrade and noted the significant progress the business has made in improving its operational and financial stability.”

So, the beat goes on. The fleet of tugs and barges built under the leadership of Harley Franco will continue to assist shipdocking, escort tankers and transport petroleum, all under a new flag.

With a degree in English literature from the University of Washington (Go Dawgs!), journalism experience at the once-upon-a-time Seattle P-I, and at-sea experience as a commercial fisherman in Washington and Alaska, Bruce Buls has forged a career in commercial marine trade journalism, including stints at Alaska Fishermen’s Journal and National Fisherman, WorkBoat’s sister publications. Bruce spent 16 years as WorkBoat's technical editor before retiring in May 2015. He lives on Puget Sound’s Whidbey Island, about 20 miles north of Seattle (go 'Hawks!).