Trade Customs and Definitions

Several terms, concepts, and customs are common throughout the Imperium.  Anyone involved in trade is expected to understand and use these terms properly.


A lot is a single shipment of goods.  A lot is identified by its displacement in std.  Each lot is a distinct shipment and may not be subdivided.  A ship captain may accept or reject specific lots based on their best fit within the ship's cargo hold.  A lot can be freight, cargo, or mail.


Freight is a lot owned by someone who either wishes to retain ownership of it, or has contracted to sell the goods to someone and is shipping them to the buyer.  An individual who is shipping his personal effects to a new home is shipping freight.  A company which has sold an air/raft to a customer and is now shipping it to that customer is shipping freight.

The standard price for shipping freight is 1000 Cr per ton.  The payment covers shipment in the cargo hold from the current location to the starship's next port of call.


Mail is a term used for a lot of communications information being shipped under special contract for a postal or express service.  Postal services are operated by governments; express services are operated by private companies.

Most mail is carried by subsidized merchants on special contract, as detailed in starship operations.

On occasion, individual non-contracted ships may be offered a one-time contract for mail delivery.  To be allowed to carry mail, the ship must be armed, and the crew must include a gunner.  Each sporadic mail lot consists of at least one ton, and may not exceed five tons.  Each ton of mail shipped under these one-time contracts is carried at a premium rate of 5 kCr per ton.


Cargo consists of goods purchased by a speculator or merchant and carried on the speculation that they can be sold at the destination for a profit.  This is the lifeblood of all free traders -- in particular, a far trader often cannot operate a profit without speculating with cargo.

A merchant who buys laser rangefinders on an industrial world and ships them to another system in hopes of selling them for a profit is shipping cargo.  A merchant who has empty cargo hold space and fills it with locally purchased goods rather than ship empty space is shipping cargo.

A speculator may buy goods and ship them: he considers the lot cargo, while the ship carrying the goods considers it freight.  A starship captain may find insufficient freight available on a world: he may become a speculator and buy cargo in order to fill unused freight space.


A merchant is an individual or company that operates a cargo-carrying starship.  Merchants may also be speculators.


A speculator is an individual or company which buys goods in the expectation that they can be sold at a profit later (and usually on another world).  A speculator does not necessarily operate a cargo-carrying starship; he may pay to ship his cargo as freight in order to transport the goods to a profitable market.


The sourceworld is the world where goods originate.


The marketworld is the world where goods are to be shipped; it is the market or destination for trade goods.


Specifically in this context, cost is the amount paid for a cargo at its sourceworld.


Specifically in this context, price is the amount a cargo is expected to sell for at its marketworld.  Careful merchants analyze the UWP of the sourceworld and marketworld to predict the relative marketability of goods at various accessible worlds.

Price is an expected price; selling price is the actual price determined at the moment of sale.

Selling Price

Selling price is the amount a cargo actually sells for at its marketworld.  Unlike price, which is an estimated amount, selling price for goods varies as the actual market conditions fluctuate.


A cargo lot is considered delivered when it is off-loaded at a location comparable to the location where it was loaded.  Goods taken on in orbit are delivered to orbit around the destination.  Goods loaded on a planetary surface are considered delivered when offloaded on the surface of the destination.  In addition, the detailed destination is to be the same -- a shipment picked up at a private residence must be delivered to an equivalent location, not just dropped off at a starport.  This applies equally to cargo, passengers, and mail.

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