Bank financing is available to qualified individuals for the purchase
of commercial starships. After the
individual makes a down payment of 20% of the cash price of the ship,
the shipyard will begin construction of the vessel.
Upon completion, the shipyard delivers the vessel to the buyer, and the
bank pays the purchase price to the shipyard. Because the bank
now holds title to the ship, the purchase price must now be paid off in
a series of monthly payments to the bank. Standard terms involve
the payment of 1/240th of the cash price each month for 480
months. In effect, interest and bank financing cost a simple 120
percent of the final cost of the ship, and the total financed price
equals 220 percent of the cash purchase price, paid over 40 years.
The bank will insist that the purchaser submit an economic plan
detailing the projected activity which will guarantee that the monthly
payments are made. Unless an individual has some form of
guaranteed income (perhaps large rents from some property he owns),
this requirement generally rules out financed purchases of yachts,
military vessels, or exploratory vessels.
The Imperial government may
subsidize larger commercial vessels (600 std or larger), primarily to
assure consistent service to specified worlds.
These subsidized merchants are generally assigned a specific route
connecting from two to twelve worlds of varying characteristics.
The route will generally be determined before a subsidized merchant
(colloquially called a sub, a somewhat derisory term) is
purchased, to allow tailored design features as may be necessary.
When a subsidized merchant is ordered, the individual himself must
still make the 20% down payment, with the government assuming the
responsibility for the payments upon delivery and taking 50% of the
gross receipts of the ship while in service. The individual is
responsible for all expenses and costs of operation.
Subsidized merchants are also subject to mobilization (and use as
auxiliaries) in the event of an emergency or hostilities. At the
end of 40 years, the vessel is completely paid off, and full title
passes to the individual. The vessel remains subject to
mobilization in case of government need.
The monthly payments required against the multimillion credit debt are staggering.
An owner or captain on occasion has decided to steal the ship himself
rather than continue under that financial load. Passengers,
unfortunately, have no easy way themselves of determining if a specific
ship is in such a status -- particularly as the ship will obviously not
be operating in areas where it is known to have skipped.
Ships which have skipped are subject to repossession attempts by the
authorities. This can range from the formal service of papers, to
legal injunctions, to repossession by force. Bounty hunters also
operate to recover skipped ships, but the financial reward depends
greatly on the condition of the recovered ship.
Starships use liquid hydrogen fuel to power their fusion plants and
jump drives. Actual fuel
consumption obviously varies from ship to
ship, and depends also on the tech level of the engineering section.
Most ships require refined fuel for safety reasons -- impurities can
interfere with smooth power output, particularly of jump drives, and
can cause severe accidents. Some ships carry an onboard
purification plant to refine their own fuel.
In order to regulate and promote interstellar trade, the Imperium sets
standard fuel prices. These are 500 Cr per ton for refined fuel,
and 100 Cr per ton for unrefined.
In some special cases, the Imperium may issue a permit for fuel to be
sold at a higher price than standard. In this case the higher
price applies throughout a system -- there is
no local competition permitted in fuel pricing.
Gas Giant Refueling
Most systems include one or more gas giants.
These large worlds have hydrogen or methane atmospheres, from which
fuel can be extracted.
There is generally no fee associated with gas giant refueling, although
this is not always the case. In certain systems, particularly
those of strategic military importance, gas giant refueling may be
prohibited. Captains are well advised to check the status of a
system before approaching a gas giant.
In order to refuel from a gas giant, a ship must move into orbit around
it. It must then dive deep into the atmosphere with open fuel
scoops. The procedure (called skimming) typically takes
around ten hours, and results in fuel tanks filled with unrefined fuel.
Free or not, skimming fuel can be hazardous. Dangers include
simple turbulence, excessive radiation exposure, collision with debris,
heat damage to the ship's hull, getting caught in a swirling cyclone
storm, or falling too deep into the planet's gravity well.
Ships can also refuel from the water oceans (or water ice fields) of
any world that has a non-zero hydrographic percentage. Ocean
refueling may require a permit on some worlds; on some, it may be the
only way to refuel. Class E starports
may simply provide a landing area beside a lake or ice field, requiring
the ship crew to carry out their own refueling procedure.
Ocean refueling is not only quicker than gas giant refueling --
typically around four hours -- but it is substantially safer.
Even so, hazards may include water leaks, corrosion damage from sea
salts, running aground, sinking, or getting caught in a hurricane
storm. Hazards of ice field refueling also include operating at
low temperatures, often in vacuum or near vacuum conditions, which of
course can lead to vaccsuit and other environmental accidents.
Despite the potential hazards of ocean refueling, the fact remains that
the crew of a ship in trouble on the sea can usually survive until
rescued, either remaining aboard or abandoning a sinking ship. A
failure during gas giant refueling invariably results in the complete
loss of both ship and crew.
Each occupied stateroom in a starship involves an overhead of 2000 Cr
per trip (two weeks). Each occupied low berth involves an
overhead of 100 Cr per usage. Double occupancy staterooms cost
twice as much.
By law, all ships operating in Imperium space or under the flag of the
Imperium must undergo an annual maintenance overhaul to keep them in
good running condition. Ships which are undercrewed and do not
carry enough dedicated or full time engineers, and those which avoid or
delay their annual maintenance, carry a substantial risk of malfunction.
Annual maintenance generally costs 0.1% (1/1000th) of the new price of
the ship, and requires two weeks at a class A or B starport. Crew
members generally take their vacations at this time, but still receive
their salaries for that period.
Landing fees, handling costs, facilities use charges, and other
starport fees are common practice, and such costs must be paid as they
occur. The average cost is 100 Cr to land or dock and remain for
up to six standard days; thereafter, a 100 Cr fee is imposed for each
additional day spent in port. In some locations, this cost will
be higher, while at other local government subsidies may lower or
At any location with a class A, B, or C starport, shuttles operate on a
routine basis between orbit and world surface. Typical shuttle
fares are 10 Cr per ton of cargo, and 20 Cr to 120 Cr per passenger.
Crew members must be paid monthly. Most starships base their pay
scale on union rates, although
individual negotiation and circumstances can affect the actual salary.
Those crew taking working passage are not paid, but receive a berth in
a double occupancy stateroom, and all meals. Continuous working
passage for more than three jumps results in automatic hiring and
receipt of salary at union rates.
An independent starship captain is usually the pilot, navigator, or
trading expert, and serves as owner aboard, drawing his pay from the
profits. Other crew members may also receive shares in the
proceeds of the ship's activities as part of their remuneration
Not all crew positions are required on all ships, and some ships will
have more than one person performing the same function. For
example, a large liner may have more than one steward.
Freight and Cargo
Freight and cargo is carried at a standard Imperial rate of 1000 Cr per
jump, regardless of jump distance. Each cargo posted at a
starport constitutes a discrete shipment and cannot be
subdivided. Ships may accept or reject cargo to get the best fit
of their holds.
It is also common for independent ships, such as free traders, to buy
their own goods for speculative trade; these are shipped at their own
After finalizing cargo details, a starship may then make itself
available for passengers. For ticket prices and procedures see Travel, Interstellar.
High ticket holders must be offered
passage before any mid ticket holders are offered staterooms.
High passengers are not obliged to accept such offers -- they can wait
for a ship of their liking -- and may change their mind and bump a mid
passenger at any time up to launch procedure.
Mail and Couriers
Subsidized merchants may receive mail delivery contracts, usually
serving as an adjunct to their established routes. In order to
receive such contracts: five tons of cargo capacity must be dedicated
to postal duty on a full time basis; the ship must be armed; a gunner
must be a permanent member of the crew at all times. The ship is
then paid 25,000 Cr for each trip, regardless of actual mail tonnage
(i.e. 5,000 Cr per ton of dedicated cargo space). The actual mail
delivery tonnage will not exceed the dedicated five tons on any one
Individuals may also approach a ship for delivery of private
messages. These are usually intended for delivery to a specific
point (such as the Travellers'
Aid Society building, or a tavern in a starport), and is generally
accompanied by a 20 Cr to 120 Cr honorarium.
Nonstarships charter for 1 Cr per std per hour, usually with a 12 hour
minimum. Charter price for a starship is computed based on that
particular ship's revenue generating capacity. Starships are
chartered in two week blocks; the charge is 900 Cr per ton of cargo
hold, plus 9,000 Cr per high passage berth and 900 Cr per low passage
berth. The owner of the ship being chartered pays all overhead
expenses and supplies a crew for the trip.