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Jul 2, 2014 01:20 PM

Harley Marine buying towboats for its growing Gulf Coast operations

Fury is a 75-foot, 2,000-hp pushboat, shown here operating on the Old River, in Channelview, Texas, near Houston.

Fury is a 75-foot, 2,000-hp pushboat, shown here operating on the Old River, in Channelview, Texas, near Houston.

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In 1987, Harley Franco founded Olympic Tug & Barge in Seattle with one leased tug and barge.
Through the years the company grew, and in 1998 Franco formed the holding company Harley Marine Services (HMS), currently with 10 subsidiaries.

From Seattle, Harley Marine Services has spread south to Portland, San Francisco and Los Angeles; north to Alaska; east to New York; and in 2011, southeast to the Gulf of Mexico.

Harley Marine Gulf (HMG) was formed after HMS bought MGI of Houston. The new company acquired nine tank and bunker barges in the process, and 800 feet of waterfront in Channelview, Texas, along the Old River. It is a picturesque stretch of riverbank surrounded by an industrial landscape. It is also strategically located just north of where Old River joins the San Jacinto River and the Houston Ship Channel.

The boat was designed to push 230-foot barges.

Initially, HMG bought a 70-foot towboat, Trigger, from Crosby Tugs and two new 76-footers, Scout and Diablo, built by Raymond & Associates in Bayou La Batre, Ala.

The new company began bunkering operations in the Houston Ship Channel. HMG then bought the 65-foot Buttercup to take Scout’s place bunkering in the harbor when Scout began running tank barges up to Chicago. Next HMG contracted Raymond & Associates to build two 85-foot towboats, Duke and Champion, and ordered six 75-foot towboats from Conrad Industries of Morgan City, La.

“We had this design for a 75-foot pushboat that we were going to build on spec,” said Gary Lipely, marketing director for Conrad Industries. “We had some under construction when Harley Marine saw this as a way to get some boats into their fleet quickly.”

In January, HMG was readying Fury, the fifth of its new 75-foot, 2,000-hp towboats from Conrad. Fury was preceded by Thunder, Lightning, Silver and Stardust, and was to be followed this spring by Alamo. Fury’s initial assignment is bunkering in the Houston Ship Channel.

Capt. Ashley Marks. Those piloting the boat like its maneuverability enhanced by the wide placement of the propellers.

HMG also has eight new 30,000-barrel tank barges built at both of the above-mentioned shipyards. An additional four are under construction at Conrad. With this fleet, HMG has expanded its bunkering services from the Houston Ship Channel to include the ports of Beaumont, Port Arthur and Freeport, Texas, and Lake Charles, La. HMG has also expanded its line-haul operations on the inland rivers system.

Scout, Lightning and Duke run up to Wood River, Ill., and back down to Beaumont,” said HMG’s port captain, Steve Estep. “Silver has been up to Catoosa, Okla., and over to Mt. Vernon, W.Va. She’s made a few miles. And Champion is running between Joliet, Ill., and Baton Rouge. At the moment the rest are bunkering.”

In January, at the HMG Channelview yard, Capt. Ashley Marks and tankerman Darryl Calhoun were busy tweaking Fury while waiting for delivery of its bunker barge from Conrad. Both are delighted to have drawn the new boat.

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