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Project44 reels in Ocean Insights in ‘largest acquisition in visibility space’

CEO McCandless says real-time information can mitigate impact of port congestion

Project44 has acquired Ocean Insights to provide customers with global supply chain visibility. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

With port congestion, particularly in California’s San Pedro Bay, making headlines, project44 made a huge splash Thursday in announcing it had acquired Ocean Insights to provide global supply chain visibility to its customers.

“BCOs [beneficial cargo owners] are getting squeezed at the ports and are screaming for relief. There is just way more freight coming into ports than the ports can handle, creating a record number of vessels waiting to get unloaded,” project44 founder and CEO Jett McCandless told FreightWaves. “Project44 and Ocean Insights can provide relief for both freight on the water and freight at origin. 

“Ocean Insights tracks all commercial vessels down to the berthing slots at each terminal in the ports,” McCandless added. “Our AI-powered algorithms process a massive amount of data for the most accurate predictions of when those containers can be picked up. Paired with the depth and quality of project44’s over-the-road data, we are the best equipped in the world to tell shippers when their freight will make it to the warehouse.

“On the front end of a transport, those same advanced algorithms are integrated with hyperaccurate vessel sailing schedules and detailed cargo rolling data to help the shipper select the best possible carrier and vessel booking to avoid the worst of the port congestion,” he said.

Visibility pioneer

Chicago-based project44 has been focused on providing hyperaccurate supply chain visibility since McCandless, the founder and former CEO of CarrierDirect, launched the company in 2014. Founded in 2012, Ocean Insights, headquartered in Germany, “pioneered ocean freight visibility by combining carrier data, live vessel tracking and sailing schedule data in one data-rich platform,” according to the acquisition announcement.

“Tracking 350,000 containers daily, Ocean Insights provides track-and-trace functionality across the vast majority of shipping lines, 700 seaports and more than 5,000 vessels, as well as handling over 5 million sailing schedule changes per day,” it said.

Jett McCandless says together project44 and Ocean Insights can show what vessels are anchored in San Pedro Bay and their average dwell time as well as the expected dwell for incoming vessels. (Image: project44)

McCandless added, “Ocean Insights has dominated the container-tracking space, and we look forward to providing the industry not only the best ocean capabilities but also the most comprehensive end-to-end visibility platform.”

Terms of the deal, which closed Thursday, were not disclosed, but McCandless said it is “the largest acquisition in visibility space history.”

He also said work to integrate Ocean Insights’ system with the project44 platform would begin immediately. “In as quickly as a few months, customers will be able to access each platform through the other platform,” he said. 

Project44 said the acquisition will expand its ocean solution by “adding the broadest container-tracking capabilities in the market, as well as one-of-a-kind sailing schedule and ocean analytics products. Combining Ocean Insights’ tracking and analytics with the project44 platform and ecosystem establishes project44 as the clear market leader with an unrivaled set of multimodal solutions for end-to-end supply chain visibility.”

McCandless told FreightWaves that the deal has been in the works for several months.

Missions aligned

“Both Ocean Insights and project44 were drawn to each other because of their tech, integrity and go-to-market performance. Our visions, missions and company values aligned. It was a natural fit for both companies,” he said. 

The two companies already share such customers as DB Schenker, Hellmann Worldwide Logistics, Kuehne + Nagel, Lenovo and Mondi Group, and Ocean Insights CTO and CEO Felix Richter agreed in Thursday’s announcement that the joining of forces makes sense. 

“Our mission has been to make supply chain data visible and actionable through best-in-class software and our team of exports,” Richter said. “Joining project44 is the next natural step to building the multimodal visibility solution that global supply chains need.

“By combining the expertise and technology of project44 and Ocean Insights, shippers and logistics services providers will unlock predictive insights across the globe,” he said.

McCandless said Richter as well as the rest of the Ocean Insights team of more than 80 employees will remain with the company, growing project44’s ranks to more than 375 people on four continents. 

“The large majority of Ocean Insights team members are in Germany,” McCandless told FreightWaves. “Germany is a critical battleground for visibility and having this team will expand our presence in the German market. Having a large German team will be a clear signal to the market that project44 takes Europe seriously and we are here to provide global solutions with regional expertise.

“I’m not a cost-cutting CEO and founder,” he continued. “I believe in growing into the cost structure and investing in teams. Each company is the fastest growing in their category, offering best-in-class solutions.”

In fact, positions are being added, not eliminated, he said. “The companies have over 90 open positions at the moment and have plans for significant growth throughout the year. Together we are accelerating this growth.”

McCandless told FreightWaves that the combination of the companies fills a void for project44’s 400-plus customers and Ocean Insights’ more than 140. “Recently, project44 customers have requested ocean and multimodal capabilities and Ocean Insights customers are requesting road and air visibility,” he said.

And the timing of the deal couldn’t be better in McCandless’ eyes.

“We know the ports are going to be a mess for a while — there’s just too much imbalance in the system,” he said. “The best thing shippers and BCOs can do right now is to invest in supply chain digitization and real-time visibility to mitigate the impacts of the unprecedented convergence of disruptive events in our global shipping networks.”  

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Click for more American Shipper/FreightWaves stories by Senior Editor Kim Link-Wills.

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Kim Link Wills

Senior Editor Kim Link-Wills has written about everything from agriculture as a reporter for Illinois Agri-News to zoology as editor of the Georgia Tech Alumni Magazine. Her work has garnered awards from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Magazine Association of the Southeast. Prior to serving as managing editor of American Shipper, Kim spent more than four years with XPO Logistics.