15 May 2024

Our Investment in Harbor Lab: Modernising Accounting in the $14T Global Shipping Industry

Transporting cargo is rife with complications, from mounting geopolitical crises to new environmental legislation. But legacy processes are adding further complications for those operating in this crucial $14T industry. Over 4 million port calls for cargo pick-up and drop-off are made every year across roughly 4,000 ports worldwide, and the $2.2m expense arising from this is the second largest cost for commercial vessels. And yet, the accounting process for these costs remains mostly manual and inadequate, leading to routine inefficiency, inflated operational costs, and frequent disputes and delays in payments.

Maritime software startup Harbor Lab, our new $16M Series A partnership and first Greek investment which we’re delighted to announce today, simplifies how shipping companies handle these port-related costs and is at the forefront of a wave of innovation transforming shipping. Founder Antonis Malaxianakis created Harbor Lab with the vision of using technology to drive much-needed change in an industry to which he has dedicated much of life.

Harbor Lab Founder Antonis Malaxianakis

Port costs or “disbursements” are highly complex to predict and calculate, as there is little transparency or standardisation in the amount owed to port authorities for the use of port facilities and to local agents for essential services for the vessel and crew. Two spots within the same port seldom carry the same cost, each having its own pricing policy which is influenced by local politics and economics, changes in currency and exchange rates, and the global economic situation.

By streamlining how these costs are managed, Harbor Lab enables a single individual to oversee disbursements for up to 50 vessels, a significant improvement on the previous ratio of one person for every six vessels. Moreover, the platform mitigates invoicing errors and overpayments by cross-referencing port call expenses with official tariffs from port authorities at 1500 of the most used ports worldwide. The platform also integrates AI to automate manual tasks, reduce human error and streamline disbursement accounting, meaning Harbor Lab’s software can reduce invoice errors from 20% to 3%, saving up to €3,000 per port call.

Harbor Lab has already seen impressive growth, winning the trust of some of the biggest names in shipping. Customers already include Star Bulk (one of the largest bulk carriers following a recent M&A), German behemoth Oldendorff, and India’s largest private shipping company, Great Eastern.

This funding will support the growth of its Athens-based team - currently 70 strong - and unlock investment in new technologies including artificial intelligence, helping the company deliver on its mission of using technology to create trust and transparency in global shipping.They also plan to open offices in major maritime hubs such as Japan, Singapore, South Korea, and China, in addition to their European headquarters.