Starship Operations



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.

Purchasing 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.

Ocean Refueling

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.

Life Support

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.

Annual Maintenance

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.

Berthing Costs

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 eliminate it.

Shuttle Service

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 Salaries

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 contract.

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 std 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 expense.


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 trip.

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.

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