Chattanooga is the nerve center for a company tracking the coronavirus and its effects on the paths and plans of ships at sea.
"It's changing on a minute-by-minute basis, and we're really working to try to stay updated specifically for data that would affect maritime traffic," said Corey Ranslem, the CEO of International Maritime Security Associates.
The company is based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, but their intelligence and development center is in Chattanooga, where reliable high-speed internet, low business costs and relatively stable weather all make it easier to support the company's clients, he said.
"Our customers are around the world," Ranslem said. "It's all about data and information and being able to get that to people. That's why we chose Chattanooga."
The biggest maritime impacts on traffic at sea so far from the coronavirus are largely to the movement of goods through and from China, Ranslem said.
"The majority of goods in the world touch or come out of China, and while the ports are open, they don't have the staff to handle the containers, to drive the trucks, to move that cargo, so there's a backlog of cargo sitting in China," he said.
International Maritime Security Associates provides integrated, real-time information for those operating on the high seas. The company was launched in 2013 in Florida, but Ranslem and his business partner Frank Fenner decided in the spring of 2016 that Chattanooga, with its growing role as a logistics hub, would be an ideal site for the data center and software operations of the global company.
The company track six types of events for their sea-going clients, from weather and disease outbreaks to civil unrest, working seven days a week, 24 hours a day. The coronavirus and its impact on global ports and trade has become an extremely high-priority area of focus for their team, Ranslem said.
"It's taking more staff right now because we're looking at so much data and information and updating it so frequently," he said. Sources of information include the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and media reports from across the globe, he said.
Steam Logistics, an international logistics and customs house broker based in Chattanooga, is seeing restrictions on maritime shipping as a result of global trade backlogs related to coronavirus, said Kevin Winkler, director of pricing for the company.
"We are seeing ocean carriers implement aggressive [canceled and delayed] sailings to control capacity due to lack of shipments leaving China," he said. "Chinese factories are slowly coming back online as workers struggle to return to work due to the many quarantines and travel restrictions."
The growing need for real-time data across global markets has fed the demand for platform the International Maritime Security Associates launched just last year, Ranslem said.
"Vessels, insurance companies, large yachts, clients focused on risk management have all had steady growth this year," he said. "Most of our growth as a company will be in Chattanooga around operations and intelligence."
Contact Mary Fortune at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6653. Follow her on Twitter at @maryfortune.