Chattanooga is more than 400 miles from the nearest ocean, but the city's high-speed internet links, reliable power and low cost of living helped make it the choice of an emerging maritime business that relocated here last year.
International Maritime Security Associates, a software startup business developing a platform to provide real-time data for ships around the world, was launched in 2013 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., by veterans of the Coast Guard and Navy who saw a need for more integrated, immediate information for those operating on the high seas.
Without any recruitment by Chattanooga, IMSA CEO Corey Ranslem said his firm decided in the spring of 2016 that Chattanooga would be an ideal site for the data center and software operations of his global company. EPB offers 10-gigabit-per-second internet links — the fastest citywide internet service in the Western Hemisphere — and power, real estate and living costs were much lower.
Since moving to the self-proclaimed "Gig City" last year, Ranslem and his partner, Navy veteran Frank Fenner, have quickly been embraced by Chattanooga's entrepreneurial support network and on Friday the company was recognized by the Chattanooga Technology Council (CHATech) with the "Early Innovator Award."
"It's really worked out well here and we love it here," said Ranslem, who hopes to build a data and intelligence control center in Chattanooga with 70 to 80 employees to offer around-the-clock, targeted data and information for ships and other ocean carriers around the globe.
"We're just a different kind of logistics company," he quipped, noting Chattanooga's tradition of trucking and warehouse development.
"The expense was just overwhelming in South Florida and we wanted a place with reliable internet and power with more reasonable costs and an area that was not likely to have service interrupted by storms," he added. "You can't find (the internet infrastructure) for what we're going to be able to do here anywhere in the world."
Ranslem said when he was working in security and other jobs for the Coast Guard, "it was really difficult to get good data and intelligence to vessels at sea."
"There is a lot of data that is not getting to them because it is so overwhelming and I knew there had to be a better way to get the right type of information to crews at the right place," he said.
The Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) broadcasts information about weather and other shipping transportation activities, but the system beeps and squawks about maritime events all over the world nearly all the time.
"A lot of it is totally irrelevant to what is needed," Ranslem said. "Through our consulting work, we realized critical risk information was not getting to the people who needed it to help them make better decisions."
So Ranslem and Fenner, along with a couple of software programmers, created the company to update industry leaders with information about everything from weather alerts and delays in canal zones to piracy and terrorism threats. Ranlem, who worked in intelligence while in the Coast Guard, said the business is assembling information from thousands of sources around the globe.
"Nobody has ever brought together the depth, breadth and scope of data specific for the maritime industry that we are bringing together for this platform," he said.
The company hopes to launch its software platform, known as Automated Risk Management Solutions (ARMS), in the first quarter of 2018. Vessels and companies will be able to buy a monthly subscription to the software.
Around the world, there are about 55,000 cargo vessels, nearly 7,000 large yachts and about 250 cruise ships. IMSA is already working with such top maritime companies as Bluewater Superyacht Bridge Services, Setel PowerLine Ltd. and Federal Resources.
So far, IMSA has raised $125,000 of seed capital and is in the process of raising another $250,000 to $275,000 to move forward, Ranslem said.
Contact Dave Flessner at email@example.com or at 423-757-6340.