Shipping goods in a MgT universe...


Banded Mongoose
Hello folks,
This is being split off from another thread, as an exploration of what is involved in shipping goods across interstellar distances...

HalC said:
Let's say for the sake of giggles, that you want to ship 100 M1 Garand Rifles. Why M1 Garand? A quick Google of shipping crate stats yielded "They are 18" wide, 49 1/2" long and 13 1/2" deep" for a crate that carried 10 rifles. So, 10 rifles at roughly 7.3 cubic feet per 10 rifles, with one dTon at roughly 500 cubic feet volume, would yield (say, at 90% storage efficiency) some 60 crates per dton. That is 600 rifles. Now, at 1,000 credits per jump - at say, 10 parsecs total distance at 1 parsec per jump, we're looking at a total increase in cost of 10,000 credits.

Dividing 10,000 by 600, and the shipping cost increase on those rifles becomes 16.67 credits per rifle overall. That's using the old Classic Traveller rules of shipping costs per parsec per jump. The CT rules were such that you got 1,000 credits per JUMP - not parsec. That meant then, that a shipping destination that was reachable in 5 jumps, would tack on only 5,000 credits per dton, effectively halving the increased cost per unit item being shipped.

MgT figures the pricing differently, as does GURPS etc. But in the long run, the methodology works the same - figure out how many units are being shipped per dton, divide the entire cost of shipping the dton's worth of goods by units within the dton, and that's the increase in cost.

Would you pay double the cost of a laser Rifle if your world can't manufacture it? Let's say for giggles, that 1 dton of volume can hold HALF the number of Garand rifles for Laser Rifles. That's 300 units per Dton right? Remember, I assumed a 10% loss of volume due to stacking issues, and having to be able to access the crates with handling equipment (forklifts, hands grabbing the ends of boxes via the handles etc). But even so - how much of a shipping cost would it take to make the cost of a laser rifle worth 8,000 credits, double?

Reversing the process I used above to derive the shipping cost per unit...

8000 x 300 = 2.4 Mcr.

Think about that. We'd have to add on 2.4 MCr's worth of shipping cost per dton before the cost of a laser rifle would effectively double - assuming that a laser rifle takes up twice the volume that an M1 Garand requires.

AnotherDilbert said:
Laser rifles require a backpack, so are nowhere as compact as rifles.

When that was originally posted, I largely left the topic alone simply because discussing any further the issues inherent in shipping goods within a dton of volume didn't really advance the thread it was first brought up with (other than to point out that shipping goods between worlds can be worth the while even if you end up having to ship them a long way.

So, the statement that shipping lasers that are bulkier than M1 Garands was made and I largely wondered just how true that was. The M1 Garand had a weight of roughly 10 lbs (plus the weight of the magazine took it a touch higher). In Kilograms - that is almost 5 kilograms in weight. MgT first edition tells us that a rifle weighs roughly 5 kg (see pg 99). Page 100 lists the weight of a laser rifle as being 8 kg at TL 9, or 5 kg at TL 11.

Unfortunately, I was not able to locate the weight of the battery pack in MgT's rule book, so I went hunting for it in the classic traveller books. Book 2 of the classic traveller rule book 2 pg 40 gives us an entry on laser rifles listing their weight as being 10 kg including the battery pack. It then goes on to state that the laser itself weighs 6 kg with the battery pack weighing 4 kg. Oddly enough, CT lists the price of the battery pack as being 1500 credits, just as the Mongoose Traveller lists the price as being 1500.

So, let's call that a baseline shall we?

As pointed out earlier, the M1 Garand packing case in real life is 18" wide by 49" long by 13.5" deep and could carry 10 rifles. Presumably, that works out to five rifles per row, two rows per case, for 10 rifles.

Presumably, the length of an M1 Garand is shorter than the 49" in length, else it wouldn't fit within that case. Google took me to a page that lists the length of the M1 Garand as 43.5". Unfortunately, Mongoose Traveller's rule book doesn't give specs on length of weapon, but Classic Traveller does, and lists the weapon length as being 1000mm in length. Converting that to inches, and we get 39.37". So, were we to presume that the rifles are capable of being separated from the battery packs - the stats on a laser rifle in CT is such that the weapon is 40" in length (why quibble over the .67 inches?) and weighs roughly 6 Kg. Comparing this against the M1 Garand is such that for the same volume of packaging for the M1 Garand, the Laser rifle is pretty darned close to the physical dimensions as the M1 Garand. It might be wider perhaps, or it might not. It is certainly SHORTER than the M1 rifle. But even if you doubled the width of the rifle - 18" wide for five rifles results in roughly 3.6" width per Garand rifle. Can anyone presume that the laser rifle is going to require TWICE the width that the M1 Garand takes?

If the Laser rifle is all THAT fragile, it would not survive battle field conditions such as being dropped as the soldier goes prone on the battle field. It could not be used as a quarterstaff like weapon in close combat when used in a cross check. So, let's call it reasonably comparable to the standard rifle in terms of durability.

Remember my original calculations above were based on the laser rifle taking up TWICE the volume that the M1 Garand required. CT would have us believe that the back pack battery weighs 4 kg in mass, and costs 1500 credits. As always, when one has to determine how much volume a given "thing" takes versus its weight, we go to the density formula that specifies that Density is equal to Volume/Mass. So, at 2.66 grams per cubic centimeter for a Nicad battery (calculated density of a D-cell battery at 33.6mm diameter by 61.5mm height), the volume of the battery pack would be roughly 1500 cubic centimeters in volume. You could pack roughly 10 of those batteries in a half cubic foot of volume.

Now, those are back of envelope calculations, and in all probability, the density of the battery pack will be HIGHER per cubic centimeter than what we use for today's NiCad batteries. The energy density of those power packs have to power 100 shots after all...

In any event, my conservative "doubling" of the volume for shipping purposes for laser rifles was, if anything, TOO conservative. At 600 rifles per dTon volume for the M1's, chances are good that we're not going to get only 300 laser rifles per dTon volume as I originally estimated, but probably closer to perhaps 400 to 500 INCLUSIVE of their battery packs. If shipping battery packs separately, even assuming that you need 1 cubic foot of volume per 10 batteries (instead of getting maybe 18 per cubic foot) - a single dTon of roughly 500 cubic feet is going to be able to carry roughly 5,000 battery packs. Let's be nice and double the packaging requirements and lower the number of 2,500 battery packs per dTon (Just for giggles).

That works out to a per battery surcharge of .4 Credits per parsec jump under the old Classic Traveller rules. In order to DOUBLE the cost of those self same batteries worth 1,500 credits per battery, we'd need to ship those batteries roughly 1,500/.4 or 3750 parsecs.

This puts it in a whole new perspective when it comes to just how worth while it may be to ship any given "goods" any given distance from a world to its outlying markets. I happened to pick the M1 Garands because I had stats on them, and could find the shipping crate stats that carried 10 rifles to a crate, and in turn, could determine its overall volume requiements and then try and figure out how much a dTon could carry.

Other consumer goods such as radios, medicines, vehicles (although vehicles end up getting the worst of the situation because the ratio of value to volume is worse).

600 rifles worth 200 credits each has an overall value of 120,000 credits (not the 30,000 listed in book 2 for speculative cargo). But were the original rules subjected to the same level of analysis just performed above - chances are good that the economics of shipping goods across interstellar distances would have been a touch more interesting. How many BIC pens could one pack into a dTon of space? Going to Amazon, looking up BIC pens, I find that I can buy a box of 36 pens whose case dimensions are 2.8 x 3.8 x 6 inches or 63.84 cubic inches. Assuming that the packing cases are somewhat larger, I'm only going to assume 400 cubic feet's worth of product to fill 500 cubic feet of volume to account for the thicker packaging for the bigger cases containing the packs of 36. That works out to 388,800 pens per dTon of volume, worth $21 per case x 27 cases per cubic foot x 400 cubic feet or $226,800. (Note that this isn't wholesale costs, but retail!). What would it take to double the price value of those pens assuming that $1 today was equal to 1 credit? (not the case I'm sure, but just doing the math)

1000 credits per dTon carrying 10,800 "cases" of 36 pens each - would spread the shipping cost per unit to .092 credits per case. To double the value of a $20 case, we'd have to ship it roughly 216 parsecs.

So, the whole point of this thread is to give you an idea of just how effective it is to ship goods in a Traveller Universe. Divide the cost of 1 displacement ton shipping by the number of units carried in that same volume, to determine the actual markup required to break even for the cost of shipping. Even BIC pens shipped at large quanties would benefit from such a shipping price assuming that the market has a demand for the product in question.

If you factor in the exchange rates for currency as originally set up in Classic Traveller, low tech worlds with poor starports would end up having to pay a higher "local price" for the goods they can't manufacture using their low tech manufacturing base. I largely suspect that BIC pens will outsell quill pens any day. ;)
There are a couple of problems you are working against for your calculations. The backpack mass doesn't tell us it's total volume. Plus you have the carbine itself and the cable. The packaging is generally meant to protect it in transit, from both jostling and other transport problems. So how much packaging is required? We have mass, but now big that mass is. One would think it's small and dense, but maybe the capacitor for the laser is bulkier than we think?

Another issue is that if efficiency of shipping. Very few containers are fully packed to 100% efficiency. Cargo is usually palletized, so while you may be able to store 10 boxed lasers per half dton, packing on a pallet and not going beyond that space me reduce that to just six or seven. And a fully loaded pallet may leave space between the top of the load and the ceiling.

Because the game doesn't model the economy or any of this we have to make certain assumptions and guesses. Paying out one thousand credit per ton of containerized cargo is fair because Tha container may be half empty. We don't really care from a charge perspective and most captains know cargo only by the manifest.

So try not to model it too closely. You will just drive yourself crazy.