Newly christened Centerline moves forward in post-Harley era
Professional Mariner|May 2020
Towing
Casey Conley

After years of debt-fueled growth and rapid expansion into new markets, followed most recently by a very public breakup with its founder, the company formerly known as Harley Marine Services is getting back to its roots.

Over the past 18 months, the Seattle-based firm with more than 700 employees has shifted its focus to three core areas: supplying bunker fuel, transporting petroleum products, and ship-assist services in busy California ports. The bunkering and terminal transport businesses date back to the late 1980s when the company launched.

Meanwhile, the firm rebranded as Centerline Logistics in January to reflect the new path forward. The new name follows management changes, resolution around the company’s ownership, and other steps to solidify the business and restore its reputation.

“Ultimately, for us it is a redemption story more than anything,” Matt Godden, Centerline’s president and chief executive, said in an interview from his office overlooking downtown Seattle and Harbor Island’s container terminals. “There was so much about the company being at its death knell or final stages, and everyone looking at it and thinking, ‘Oh, that thing’s a mess.’ It is quite the opposite.”

Godden readily admitted that the past couple of years have been challenging. They’ve been hard on him personally, hard on employees and hard on the company. Rampant rumors haven’t helped. Neither has the on-going, and at times public, legal battle with Harley Franco, the founder of Harley Marine Services and its former CEO.

“Changing the name became more about being able to communicate that the company is here to stay, that this wasn’t the final chapter,” Godden said. “It is just the next chapter.”

Franco started Olympic Tug & Barge in 1987 with a single tugboat and barge, and in the early years the company focused on fuel transport and bunker services in the Pacific Northwest. Harley Marine Services formed in 1998 as a holding company for a series of acquisitions that expanded its reach within the maritime industry. The company later launched ship-assist services in numerous West Coast ports, established a brown-water unit, and expanded fuel services to the Gulf of Mexico and East Coast.

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