October 27th, 2017
Cargo and passenger vessels on the high seas face a multitude of threats and risks that affect decision-making, from delays at canals to illegal migrant traffic, major weather events, and even disease outbreaks. For decades, the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS), which had its origin in the 1979 International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue, has been broadcasting these alerts to ships worldwide. GMDSS relies on a complicated array of position-indicating beacons, satellites, high frequency radios, and direct-printing services to distribute urgent information to vessels at sea, and ships have been required by law to maintain GMDSS equipment and separate battery systems powering that equipment since the late 1980s.
The only problem? GMDSS’s alerts are not geo-located, meaning that any given ship’s officers have to wade through a torrent of unsolicited information about far-flung waterways to find anything that pertains to their vessel’s immediate area.
Corey Ranslem, CEO of Chattanooga-based International Maritime Security Associates (IMSA), put it this way: “There isn’t one system or website currently providing the information like our Automated Risk Management Solution (ARMS) platform. Crew members have to look at multiple sources to try and determine what is happening around them. Systems today are not geographically specific like ARMS, making most of the data received by vessels irrelevant and useless.”
Ranslem, a veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard who has worked for years as a commercial maritime security consultant, saw an opportunity for a targeted, real-time data service for maritime traffic and founded IMSA with his business partner Frank Fenner, a U.S. Navy veteran, in 2013. Ranslem and Fenner moved IMSA from South Florida to Chattanooga, TN, in the spring of 2016 over concerns about the reliability of Florida’s power supply during hurricane season. They chose Chattanooga in part because of its citywide gigabit-per-second fiber optic internet infrastructure—they need the bandwidth to gather and distribute huge amounts of data to tens of thousands of ships across the planet.
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