Megafreighters

Discuss the Traveller RPG and its many settings
Condottiere
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Re: Megafreighters

Postby Condottiere » Tue Dec 18, 2018 10:43 pm

There are three aspects to consider:

1. Capital outlay

2. Operating costs

3. Net profit (after taxes and loan repayments, if any)

Possibly, government subsidies.
AnotherDilbert
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Re: Megafreighters

Postby AnotherDilbert » Tue Dec 18, 2018 11:52 pm

Moppy wrote: Earth ships 200 million shipping containers a year.
Sea freight is much cheaper than space freight, hence space freight volume is likely to be much lower.

A fairer comparison is air freight?
Moppy
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Re: Megafreighters

Postby Moppy » Wed Dec 19, 2018 12:30 am

AnotherDilbert wrote:
Tue Dec 18, 2018 11:52 pm
Moppy wrote: Earth ships 200 million shipping containers a year.
Sea freight is much cheaper than space freight, hence space freight volume is likely to be much lower.

A fairer comparison is air freight?
You'd have to decide what % of trade a planet does with itself.

Internal trade probably goes on anti-grav haulers or system ships for intra-planet.

Currently, sea freight is 90% of all freight and is almost all foreign trade.
baithammer
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Re: Megafreighters

Postby baithammer » Wed Dec 19, 2018 3:52 am

Bulk cargo also doesn't require time efficiency that fast transports live or die on, the point is to deliver mass amounts of cargo at a regular time frame. ( Looking at Jump 1.)

Here's a quick example.

Image

Fuel Refinery is used due to the distributed hull, so only needs to orbit rather than skim for itself or using refuel barges.
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Re: Megafreighters

Postby Bardicheart » Wed Dec 19, 2018 8:42 am

Shipping and what gets shipped in Traveller is something that deserves (and has had) its own debate. I've always had a few questions, to put it mildly, about how much in the way of common goods and so forth gets shipped around. It seems like in those cases it would be cheaper to produce them at the planet where they were needed, even if that meant building an orbital facility to manufacture common goods. If you follow that argument, you might argue that most forms of bulk shipping wouldn't happen in Traveller, that it would be mainly smaller higher value cargos. That's certainly one way to go.

In Traveller 1e HG we had an example of a 100kdT superfreighter costing 32.218.5MCr, with a 50,000dT container capacity. Compare that to ULCV (Ultra Large Container Vessel) container ship with around a 20,000 TEU capacity (roughly equivalent) which go for around $100M. Is the cost worth it? Dunno, but its something to ponder. A 20,000 ULCV can be unloaded at a port like Los Angles in around 12-16 hours. So if you wanted to use such a superfreighter in your games, figure 1 day in port unloading, another day loading and then back to jumpspace. From what I gather, there are about 30 of these really big ULCVs (the big 20k TEU ones) operating here on Earth. So if you figure around 5 per billion of population, roughly, and then use that as a rough guide for the Imperium which has an estimated population of 15 trillion, then there might be a total of around 75,000 such superfreighters operating on the main trade routes of the Imperium. Maybe... that's really all just conjecture but its some numbers to ponder anyway as some sort of a rough estimate. Here on lil ole Earth the global merchant fleet is IIRC around 30,000 vessels, so if 5 per billion gets you 75,000 superfreighters, there's literally hundreds of millions (about 450 million) of other ships ranging from Free Traders and Subsidized Merchants up to larger 5kdT to 10kdT ships. Again... maybe.

It really depends on what is being shipped. How much in the way of bulk goods versus smaller but higher value goods? How much is just produced in system and not shipped at all? Is it cheaper to just build an orbital facility and manufacture the goods in system (just because the planet is TL 5 doesn't mean you can't build a TL 12 orbital facility and manufacture TL 12 goods to sell on the planet using local resources and that might turn out to be cheaper in the long run, but we've no real rules for it so who knows really)? How you answer some of those questions for your campaign will help define whether superfreighters make any sense or not.

As for me personally, I like the idea of superfreighters and giant cruise ships. If Carnival Cruises can operate ships from 70k gross tons to 180k gross tons (their newest still under construction), why not in the Imperium? Why should all these passenger ships be small 600 or 1,200 dT ships??? So why not a space going version of the Panorama, 321.6m long, 1,823 cabins, 4008 passengers, 1,450 crew? Especially with 2e giving us stat rules for common space, gaming space, etc. To me, those are things that have long been missing from the OTU, not necessarily for players to ever own one, but they might travel on one, maybe an adventure on one, or one miss-jumps and the rescue mission is on, etc. Its always kind of bugged me that pretty much the only big ships we ever see are military ships. If they can be built that big, someone will build some that large for commercial reasons.

Just my two bit on the topic though. YMMV
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Re: Megafreighters

Postby AnotherDilbert » Wed Dec 19, 2018 9:51 am

Bardicheart wrote: I've always had a few questions, to put it mildly, about how much in the way of common goods and so forth gets shipped around. It seems like in those cases it would be cheaper to produce them at the planet where they were needed, even if that meant building an orbital facility to manufacture common goods.
With the same logic we should have an umbrella factory in every city. We don't.

With scale advantages it is much cheaper (per unit) to produce a million units than to produce a thousand units. That may or may not apply to Traveller Stellar tech manufacturing.

Traveller freight is much more expensive than current sea freight, but still not very expensive per umbrella. It may (or may not) be cheaper to manufacture umbrellas in a central world and ship to nearby worlds.

In short we have no real idea how the Imperial trade system works.


Gurps Far Trader made an attempt at defining total trade volumes.

By my calculations Regina would trade over 8 MDt (≈3 MTEU?) per year, I believe total incoming and sent out. That is about 24 kDt per day, to many different destinations. That does not really support megafreighters.

A massive economy, Mora, would ship and receive about 500 MDt (≈170 MTEU?) per year. That is roughly 1.3 MDt per day to many different destinations, perhaps 0.4 MDt of which to other sectors. This might require megafreighters?

Mora would handle about as much traffic as China does today. Regina would be a sleepy backwater with far smaller traffic than the big European or American harbours.
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Re: Megafreighters

Postby Reynard » Wed Dec 19, 2018 11:57 am

If Earth today is any example, trade and manufacturing makes no sense. The US had no problem producing goods for both domestic and foreign consumption then other powers especially China began artificially cutting costs to the detriment of labor and product quality as well as using huge government subsidies thus wiping out another economy. US corporations will actually ship products and materials to other countries then brought back for sale.

We can expect worlds using such cutthroat tactics to monopolize trade using slave labor, automation, cheap materials and heavy subsidizing on planetary scales leaving worlds around them economically depressed and dependent even though they could do it all themselves. Megafreighters could also be part of the formula subsidized by government to dump product. As I read while researching superfreighters, China sends those ships to the US full and return empty. Reality is stranger than fiction.
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Re: Megafreighters

Postby baithammer » Wed Dec 19, 2018 12:43 pm

US doesn't have the capacity to be self sufficient since the late 60s with Boomer generation, as for labour that is a function of supply and demand which China managed to master and is being eroded by India's push into manufacturing.

Core Worlds can have populations that exceed earth by several factors and could easily outstrip resources available.
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Re: Megafreighters

Postby Moppy » Wed Dec 19, 2018 2:11 pm

Bardicheart wrote:
Wed Dec 19, 2018 8:42 am
Just my two bit on the topic though. YMMV
The numbers are well wrong (LA can't handle a 20K TEU ship, for example), but I agree with the reasoning if not the data.
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Re: Megafreighters

Postby Old School » Wed Dec 19, 2018 2:51 pm

I think most frieght within the OTU is going to be relatively local. The shipping costs add up so fast on multi-jump hauls, that especially among common goods, shipping many parsecs is goung to be cost prohibitive.

I’ve always found the concept of the Hierate and Florian trade routes, which is are a fixture of the Pirates of Drinax Campaign I have underway, to be odd. Those are very long hauls. What is being shipped thats get such a huge premium as to make those economcs work? I’m aware that bulk freighters jumping as often as their crew can stand it have a transport cost well below the stated price in the Core Rulebook, but its still very expensive to ship something halfway or more across a sector.
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Re: Megafreighters

Postby phavoc » Wed Dec 19, 2018 3:00 pm

For anyone who likes academic papers and statistics, here's a paper from the OECD that discusses port dwell times around the world - https://www.itf-oecd.org/sites/default/ ... 201408.pdf

(hint - skip to the conclusion starting on pg 24)
Moppy
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Re: Megafreighters

Postby Moppy » Wed Dec 19, 2018 3:15 pm

phavoc wrote:
Wed Dec 19, 2018 3:00 pm
For anyone who likes academic papers and statistics, here's a paper from the OECD that discusses port dwell times around the world - https://www.itf-oecd.org/sites/default/ ... 201408.pdf

(hint - skip to the conclusion starting on pg 24)
Thanks for posting this. It would be interesting to see how it's changed for 2017 as the US has only just finished a big program of modernisation of their meme-level container port infrastructure, to the point where some of the larger ships are now able to visit (tho they still can't service a 20K TEU ship).
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Re: Megafreighters

Postby phavoc » Wed Dec 19, 2018 4:34 pm

Moppy wrote:
Wed Dec 19, 2018 3:15 pm
phavoc wrote:
Wed Dec 19, 2018 3:00 pm
For anyone who likes academic papers and statistics, here's a paper from the OECD that discusses port dwell times around the world - https://www.itf-oecd.org/sites/default/ ... 201408.pdf

(hint - skip to the conclusion starting on pg 24)
Thanks for posting this. It would be interesting to see how it's changed for 2017 as the US has only just finished a big program of modernisation of their meme-level container port infrastructure, to the point where some of the larger ships are now able to visit (tho they still can't service a 20K TEU ship).
In the conclusion section it talked about some possible options to increase speed, and one of those options was for better coordination with ports on scheduling to ensure equipment and quay space is available.

The port of Los Angeles (and Long Beach) was mentioned above. Something that is a limitation of the ports capabilities is the movement of the container once it leaves the ship. The port has limited storage space, so the containers need to be moved out quickly to warehouses and railyards. There has been ongoing labor issues in LA with the freight drivers. Over 10,000 work each day to move containers to and from the port. The same issues a sea port has a space port would have as well. Customs will always be there, and freight forwarders will be there as well. One thing that space freighters have to deal with is their schedule is going to be more erratic than sea vessels. Even accounting for the odd storm, most freighters have a relatively regular schedule. Jump freighters will never be able to pinpoint their emergence times. Which would complicate regular scheduling of all the ancillary activities required to move cargo. It's kind of amazing to me that once you start peeling back the onion of the industry just how complicated it is. Traveller is much more fun than spreadsheets and sliderules that would model all the aspects of a being a merchant. Though as much as I don't want to have to game/referee this sort of thing, I do like the details underpinning the issues. This way you can have gaming sessions where there may be no combat besides wits.
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Re: Megafreighters

Postby AnotherDilbert » Wed Dec 19, 2018 6:40 pm

baithammer wrote: Bulk cargo also doesn't require time efficiency that fast transports live or die on, the point is to deliver mass amounts of cargo at a regular time frame. ( Looking at Jump 1.)
I agree that speed is not all that important for many goods, but shipping long distances it's actually cheaper to use higher jump, say J-3.

Example: Shipping an idealised 12 Pc takes 12 jumps at J-1, 6 jumps at J-2, 4 jumps at J-3, 3 jumps at J-4, and 2 jumps at J-6.

Making simple freighter of 20 kDt with the different jump performances:
Jump ___ Cost _______ Cargo
J-1 ___ MCr 1671 ___ 16560 Dt
J-2 ___ MCr 2350 ___ 13840 Dt
J-3 ___ MCr 3030 ___ 11110 Dt
J-4 ___ MCr 3712 ____ 8380 Dt
J-6 ___ MCr 5087 ____ 2940 Dt
Running costs are basically proportional to cost, so I'll only use cost.

Each ship jumps as quickly possible (9 days/jump) to the destination, spends a week loading/unloading, and then jumps back. With this we can calculate how many trips each ship can make in a year, and so how much cargo it can ship in a year.
Jump __ Trips/y _ Days/trip ______ Calculation
J-1 ______ 1.6 _____ 223 days ____ 12 × 9 + 7 + 12 × 9
J-2 ______ 3.1 _____ 115 days _____ 6 × 9 + 7 + 6 × 9
J-3 ______ 4.6 ______ 79 days _____ 4 × 9 + 7 + 4 × 9
J-4 ______ 5.9 ______ 61 days _____ 3 × 9 + 7 + 3 × 9
J-6 ______ 8.4 ______ 43 days _____ 2 × 9 + 7 + 2 × 9
So, a J-2 ship will take 115 days for a round trip, doing 3.1 trips in a year.

With this we can calculate how much cargo each ship can carry all the way to the destination in a year:
Jump __ Trips/y ___ Cargo ____ Cargo/year ___ Cost/Dt carried
J-1 ______ 1.6 _____ 16560 Dt ___ 26496 Dt _______ kCr 63
J-2 ______ 3.1 _____ 13840 Dt ___ 42904 Dt _______ kCr 54
J-3 ______ 4.6 _____ 11110 Dt ___ 51106 Dt _______ kCr 59
J-4 ______ 5.9 ______ 8380 Dt ___ 49442 Dt _______ kCr 75
J-6 ______ 8.4 ______ 2940 Dt ___ 24696 Dt ______ kCr 206

We can see that the J-2 ship is cheapest, with J-3 almost as cheap. J-4 and higher is much more expensive.

Interesting, it's usually J-3 that is cheapest, as far as I can remember.
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Re: Megafreighters

Postby Reynard » Wed Dec 19, 2018 8:44 pm

"One thing that space freighters have to deal with is their schedule is going to be more erratic than sea vessels. Even accounting for the odd storm, most freighters have a relatively regular schedule. Jump freighters will never be able to pinpoint their emergence times. Which would complicate regular scheduling of all the ancillary activities required to move cargo."

I think after so many thousands of years of jump travel, the +/- 15 hours should be part of doing business universally. Everyone experiences this so no one is advantaged or disadvantage. When the port detects the jump flash within the anticipated window, crews and personnel are on their feet prepping for the arrival. The ship can transmit any information concerning the cargo especially any unexpected changes and the port stands by. This is also part of a system whose communications are reliant on jump ships. Trade and regular cargo handling needs to be calculated and ready weeks before ships arrive and depart.
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Re: Megafreighters

Postby phavoc » Wed Dec 19, 2018 9:28 pm

Reynard wrote:
Wed Dec 19, 2018 8:44 pm
"One thing that space freighters have to deal with is their schedule is going to be more erratic than sea vessels. Even accounting for the odd storm, most freighters have a relatively regular schedule. Jump freighters will never be able to pinpoint their emergence times. Which would complicate regular scheduling of all the ancillary activities required to move cargo."

I think after so many thousands of years of jump travel, the +/- 15 hours should be part of doing business universally. Everyone experiences this so no one is advantaged or disadvantage. When the port detects the jump flash within the anticipated window, crews and personnel are on their feet prepping for the arrival. The ship can transmit any information concerning the cargo especially any unexpected changes and the port stands by. This is also part of a system whose communications are reliant on jump ships. Trade and regular cargo handling needs to be calculated and ready weeks before ships arrive and depart.
It can do all that once it arrives in-system. An incoming freighter cannot notify the planet that it's arriving via jump. All the docs will know is that it's regularly scheduled. Which every regular route for a ship will have a regular window. Ships that are on a multi-system route will have even larger windows of unknown, since they could possibly be exiting jump at every point (admittedly the law of averages will even things out - still, the window will exist). A ship that dwells for a few days at a planet will be able to better control it's averages since it can move up departure times if it's running late on arrival. Cruise ships do this. The current passenger is screwed, but the next set they always try to leave port on-time.
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Re: Megafreighters

Postby Condottiere » Thu Dec 20, 2018 1:03 am

Empty containers tend to ensure shipping rates would be dirt cheap.

Entrepreneurs seized the opportunity and shipped paper, carton and other recyclables to China.

And as I mentioned before, figure out the exact trade flows, which will factor into the size and range of the proposed merchantmen.
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Re: Megafreighters

Postby Old School » Thu Dec 20, 2018 1:22 am

We had a client a few years ago who figured out that the backhaul rates on containers back to China were so cheap, they could ship grain grown on the East Coast in a container out of Norfolk, VA cheaper than Midwest grain could be shipped out of Long Beach, even though the Port at Long Beach and the container ships thst frequent it are specifically designed for moving dry bulk good such as grain products.

The land portion of the trip (50-100 miles from the farm in North Carolina to the port and then 100-200 miles from the port in China to the factory) cost more than the entire sea voyage. Guys were making a killing shipping grain, which is possibly the most commodtized, low tech, product that is shipped in large quantities.
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Re: Megafreighters

Postby ShawnDriscoll » Thu Dec 20, 2018 3:42 am

Reynard wrote:
Tue Dec 18, 2018 1:01 am
Now that's to service continents but Starports service entire worlds.
Where is that stated?
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Re: Megafreighters

Postby paltrysum » Thu Dec 20, 2018 4:32 am

Pirates of Drinax, Book 3: Ships of the Reach has the 30,000-ton Galoof-class megafreighter. It has 15,248 tons of cargo space. Based on some of your scaled down versions, wouldn't a fleet of these suffice?
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