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Harbor Lab seeks funds to update port expenses accounting

Published by , Editorial Assistant
Dry Bulk,

Harbor Lab, the maritime software company modernising accounting practices in the US$14 trillion shipping industry, has raised a US$16 million Series A funding round led by European VC Atomico.

With participation from existing investors Notion Capital, Venture Friends, SpeedInvest and The Dock, and new investors Endeavor Catalyst and maritime VC TMV, the round follows a Seed round of €6.1 million and takes total funding for the Greek startup to US$22.5 million. Atomico Partner Ben Blume will join the board.

There is a longstanding bottleneck at the heart of the shipping industry: a set of outdated, mostly manual accounting methods that many shipping companies still rely on to grapple with the complex web of costs that arise from their vessel’s port calls - the second largest expense for commercial vessels behind fuel, reaching around US$2.2 million per vessel per year. This leads to inefficiency, inflated operational costs, and frequent disputes and delays in payments. New environmental legislation and mounting geopolitical crises are further adding to the complications, dangers, and unpredictability in costs of transporting cargo.

Over 4 million port calls for cargo loading and discharging are made every year across approximately 4000 ports worldwide. The 'disbursements' incurred at these calls include the fees owed to port authorities for the use of port facilities, alongside payments to local agents for essential 'husbandry' services for the vessel and crew such as spare parts and visas.

The lack of standardisation and transparency across different ports worldwide makes it difficult for shipping companies to calculate port expenses and predict how much the next voyage will cost. Expenses can vary drastically for the same vessel in the same port, as each 'terminal' and 'berth' within the port has its own pricing policy and disbursements constantly fluctuate, influenced by local politics and economics, changes in currency and exchange rates, and the global economic situation.

By streamlining how shipping companies handle these port-related costs, Harbor Lab enables a single individual to oversee disbursements for up to 50 vessels, a significant improvement on the previous ratio of 1 to 6 vessels. Moreover, the platform mitigates invoicing errors and overpayments by cross-referencing port call expenses with real-time official port tariffs from global port authorities, reducing the margin of error from 20% to just 3% per port call. Harbor Lab offers valuable services including Know-Your-Customer (KYC) verification, enhancing security and compliance in their interaction with local agents.

"By demystifying disbursement accounting, we're not just streamlining operations; we're fostering a culture of trust and innovation across the maritime ecosystem", said Harbor Lab founder Antonis Malaxianakis.

Atomico partner Ben Blume added, “Harbor Lab’s platform gives peace of mind to shipping companies by enabling them to run critical parts of their operations in a more seamless, transparent and efficient way. It is already helping businesses around the world - including shipping giants Great Eastern Shipping and Oldendorff - and has significant opportunity to expand globally.”

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