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Old February 21 2014, 07:10 PM   #31
C.E. Evans
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Re: Freighters and Cargoships

J.T.B. wrote: View Post
Transport of cargo in ships like Enterprise would actually seem to weigh in favor of having dedicated cargo vessels. While it might work for relatively small volumes of stores or emergency situations to be shipped on a cruiser, problems would come when the vessels' multi-purpose roles conflict. If you need X-cargo at Y-location at Z-time, but it is shipping on a cruiser that is needed for a tactical situation at location-A immediately, that doesn't work.
Easily solved by sending a different cruiser to location-A, though.
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Old February 21 2014, 07:31 PM   #32
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Re: Freighters and Cargoships

C.E. Evans wrote: View Post
Easily solved by sending a different cruiser to location-A, though.
It would be, but we have seen a number of situations where Enterprise had to be diverted from her current mission for something more urgent, and a few times when it was explicitly stated she was the only ship available. So the problem would not always be so easily solved.
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Old February 21 2014, 10:25 PM   #33
C.E. Evans
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Re: Freighters and Cargoships

J.T.B. wrote: View Post
C.E. Evans wrote: View Post
Easily solved by sending a different cruiser to location-A, though.
It would be, but we have seen a number of situations where Enterprise had to be diverted from her current mission for something more urgent, and a few times when it was explicitly stated she was the only ship available. So the problem would not always be so easily solved.
That's a problem inherent with all deep-space vessels.
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Old February 21 2014, 11:31 PM   #34
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Re: Freighters and Cargoships

C.E. Evans wrote: View Post
That's a problem inherent with all deep-space vessels.
We don't really know how often other classes of vessels are diverted from their normal duties. But if you want cargo to arrive at its destination on a reliable schedule, it makes most sense to send it in a vessel dedicated to that, not one that is primarily tasked with less predictable duties like territorial defense, policing, peacekeeping, diplomacy and so on.
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Old February 22 2014, 12:14 AM   #35
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Re: Freighters and Cargoships

J.T.B. wrote: View Post
C.E. Evans wrote: View Post
That's a problem inherent with all deep-space vessels.
We don't really know how often other classes of vessels are diverted from their normal duties. But if you want cargo to arrive at its destination on a reliable schedule, it makes most sense to send it in a vessel dedicated to that, not one that is primarily tasked with less predictable duties like territorial defense, policing, peacekeeping, diplomacy and so on.
I don't know about that. I think you really would want to have a ship that could do just about anything when the need arises. I do think Starfleet has some specialized vehicles, but the bulk of the fleet may consist of multimission ships that can carry out a wide range of jobs for Starfleet and the Federation when called upon.
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Old February 22 2014, 01:27 AM   #36
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Re: Freighters and Cargoships

There are a few things to consider, which would likely apply to both 23rd and 24th centuries equally...

In TOS "The Ultimate Computer", Mr. Spock tells us this upon sighting a "freighter":

M-5 has identified her, Captain. The Woden. Listed in Starfleet Registry as an old-style ore freighter converted to automation. No crew...
This indicates that automated interstellar vehicles are employed in the TOS era to convey needed raw materials (and perhaps other commodities and maybe even personnel). It also indicates that some such vehicles are manned, others are robots. (Later dialogue makes it clear such crafts could easily be manned, and that the use of the term "robot ship" makes it clear that the concept of the Woden being automated is not unusual, either.) It is not clear if the Woden is a Federation vessel, an Earth vessel, or even an allied vessel; all we know for certain is that she is that Starfleet keeps a record of her registry. We can infer from this that the Woden is either an automated Federation starship or that she is simply known to the Federation because she is employed by one of the Federation member-worlds. We do not know if her work has a military or a civilian purpose, but the casual way she is recognized by M-5 strongly suggests that such vessels (manned and automated) are widely employed and have been for many years. You can take this with a grain of salt, but this logic is being applied from canon material.

In TNG's "Unnatural Selection", the Enterpise-D encounters a call for help from the U.S.S. Lantree, a Federation starship-of-the-line that is specifically identified as a supply vessel. (Another name for a "transport".)

This establishes clearly that manned Federation starships-of-the-line are employed for transport/freight functions in the 24th century. This would seem to retroactively reinforce the notion in canon that Federation starships-of-the-line, both manned and automated, are employed for this purpose.

In July of 2008, I started a thread in the Trek Tech forum titled "Warptugs and cargo pods", loosely based on the TOS sighting of the Woden and Franz Joseph Schnaubelt's notion of a Class I Transport/Tug Starship from his 1975 Star Fleet Technical Manual. The thread included discussion, art and model exhibition of what military (and civilian) transport vessels carrying cargo pods might look like and how they would be used. In was all very loosely derived from canon, but can be traced back to mentions of the Astral Queen, the Woden, the Lantree, and other instances.

It is my belief (and my speculation) that the TREK Universe had a vast, mostly unseen network of frieghter/transport/"supply ship" vessels, some Starfleet starships-of-the-line, mostly not, some manned, most robotic. Some were self-contained vessels like the Lantree. Others would be warptugs piggybacking cargo containers. The collection of these vessels formed a kind of interstellar railroad/pony express/FedEx/Post Office between the various trading worlds, colonies, space stations, starships and starbases. While this speculation itself isn't canon, it is strongly inferred from numerous references sprinkled throughout the franchise.

Some folks had a hard time buying into my idea that this "freighter" infrastructure existed prior to TOS, but it is the only way I could figure out how the human race became networked with other worlds prior to the Warp 2 threshold being crossed by the NX Project prototypes.

As far as I'm concerned, these "interstellar railroad" vessels were being employed prior to ENT and well after TNG. We just never saw this network explicitly in action.
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Last edited by Wingsley; February 22 2014 at 01:35 AM. Reason: typo
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Old February 22 2014, 02:20 AM   #37
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Re: Freighters and Cargoships

I think this makes a lot of sense.

And Enterprise did establish that a freighter network was in place prior to TOS. Travis's family was a crew on such a ship. I think there was an episode about such a ship... umm... "Fortunate Son'...? maybe.

I'm not really an Enterprise fan so I don't really remember.

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Old February 22 2014, 02:35 AM   #38
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Re: Freighters and Cargoships

I'd imagine the automated freighters are mostly ships that carry non-time sensitive stuff on regular routes. Basically ore freighters and raw deuterium tankerage and the like, hauling huge quantities of stuff from point A to point B in a monotonous route.
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Old February 22 2014, 02:54 AM   #39
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Re: Freighters and Cargoships

J.T.B. wrote: View Post
... but we have seen a number of situations where Enterprise had to be diverted from her current mission for something more urgent ...
But we also saw the Enterprise break away from a rescue mission to make a delivery of time sensitive cargo. The cargo of medical supplies going to Makus Three.

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Old February 22 2014, 07:05 AM   #40
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Re: Freighters and Cargoships

It would be a foregone conclusion that, at least during the ENT era, the NX-01 Starship Enterprise was the fastest Earth vessel in existence. (And, for quite a while during ENT, the only Warp 5 Earth ship in existence.) So if there was a huge emergency and some precious cargo had to be delivered immediately, NX-01 Enterprise was "the only game in town".

During TOS "Friday's Child", Sulu commented that "the best a freighter could do is Warp 2"; so it is possible that civilian ships like the Dierdre and the Woden were Warp 2 (at best) vessels. (Interesting aside about the Deirdre; the fake Klingon distress call that fooled Scotty seemed so believable to him, including the part about a convoy of ships under attack and some damaged. This suggests that "freighters"-- perhaps warptugs --are low-speed transport vessels that travel in convoys.)
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Old March 11 2014, 03:27 PM   #41
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Re: Freighters and Cargoships

This indicates that automated interstellar vehicles are employed in the TOS era to convey needed raw materials
...Something we subsequently see in TAS. Which raises the question of whether the fully automatic Delta Vega station in "Where No Man" was visited by manned or robotic "ore ships" every two decades. Possibly the former, considering the station had facilities for people - including a brig, something one would not expect a random ship to need unless she regularly shipped a sizable crew capable of getting into trouble all on their own.

The bigger question is, why would anybody want to haul ore? Ore is precious materials plus worthless dirt - why not separate the dirt first and then ship the materials? Hauling of ore suggests that the Federation (and its environs) features a lot of extremely simple or primitive mining communities or automated mines that lack refining capabilities and rely on centralized refineries. This further suggests that space travel is literally dirt cheap, or else it would make more sense to build a thousand refineries for a thousand mining planets than to build even a thousand ships to feed ore to a single refinery.

Or then these folks haul ore because it's less likely to be stolen by pirates. A centralized refinery can be defended against pirate attack; thousands of robotic shipments cannot.

Another name for a "transport"
Here I'd emphasize that the transport category can cover a lot of very different types of stuff-moving vessels. Supply ships deliver things where needed, on a schedule, to keep up a supply - which is very different from transporting materiel to a battlefield, or delivering goods to a purchaser, or hunting for profitable shipping deals in ports all around the galaxy, etc. Physically different vessels might be needed for the applications; historically, this has been the case.

Whether the Lantree possessed any ship-of-the-line qualities or capabilities remains debatable. Is an Oberth a ship-of-the-line, too? Is Kasidy's freighter one? Data explicitly belittled the armaments and defensive capabilities of the Lantree, suggesting either a strip-down after the TOS movie era, or then an upgrading of standards on what is battleworthy.

ships that carry non-time sensitive stuff on regular routes
One would assume these ships would be rather large, to compensate for their inflexibility and to lower overall costs. The Woden, in both her incarnations, was minuscule, despite hauling supposedly low-price-per-mass bulk. The ENT Class J cargo train was a more convincing ore carrier, but not automated - yet that may merely reflect the state of the art of that backward era, or the strategic situation, or both. I'd love to believe in vast automated carriers of ore and grain (the UFP has "farming worlds", apparently not for local sustenance, and used to face famines as per ST2), in addition to the midget cargo-movers seen so far - but this is the one field where speculation and noncanon material is all we have to go by.

During TOS "Friday's Child", Sulu commented that "the best a freighter could do is Warp 2"
Which is a whopper of a claim. Why aren't freighter operators interested in warp 7 ships? Are the obstacles technical (big engine like that -> no room for profitable cargo), political (Starfleet won't let civilians have big engines) or business-based (nobody can make profit on a fast starship which is expensive to operate, because nobody needs stuff delivered from star to star in less than a week)?

All the shows feature these tiny high-price-per-mass movers, some of which operate as tramps, hunting for profitable freight deals. DS9 suggests that even Kasidy Yates' ancient-looking tub is actually really, really fast, completing a circuit of several star systems in less than a day ("For the Cause"). Yet as late as the 2260s, freighters were categorically slow. One is tempted to believe in not just a combination of all the three excuses given above, but further a profound disinterest in doing business in space transportation!

Perhaps back then, the fear of Klingons had almost completely shut down interstellar commerce? That'd fit the fact that "Friday's Child" also mentioned convoy while all the rest of Trek showed individually traveling cargo movers, right until open war with Cardassians, Klingons and finally the Dominion.

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Old March 12 2014, 08:43 AM   #42
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Re: Freighters and Cargoships

I'm kind of skeptical that "interstellar commerce" is really a thing for bulk goods. In general any star system worth inhabiting will have enough natural resources to not require bulk freight. A replicator economy would make this even more likely. Instead, the only things that would have practical value as freight cargo would be low mass/high value items or finished products.

The "freighter" mentioned in Friday's Child is never specified in terms of size, though and is supposedly convoyed, so it might be hauling grain and/or rare earths or metals.

I wonder if on some level the cheapness of interstellar travel means that it's much more profitable to stripmine the crust of a world for certain rare minerals than it would be to extract certain materials from deeper in a planet. Afterall there's probably not a lot of environmental regs on how you're allowed to use airless balls of rock.
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Old March 15 2014, 05:06 AM   #43
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Re: Freighters and Cargoships

Nob Akimoto wrote: View Post
I'm kind of skeptical that "interstellar commerce" is really a thing for bulk goods. In general any star system worth inhabiting will have enough natural resources to not require bulk freight. A replicator economy would make this even more likely. Instead, the only things that would have practical value as freight cargo would be low mass/high value items or finished products.

The "freighter" mentioned in Friday's Child is never specified in terms of size, though and is supposedly convoyed, so it might be hauling grain and/or rare earths or metals.

I wonder if on some level the cheapness of interstellar travel means that it's much more profitable to stripmine the crust of a world for certain rare minerals than it would be to extract certain materials from deeper in a planet. Afterall there's probably not a lot of environmental regs on how you're allowed to use airless balls of rock.
Some systems are richer than others in raw materials, and there are the magical substances like dilithium in play as well. Plus, colonies don't always have what they need in the beginning until they are up and running.
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Old March 15 2014, 06:01 AM   #44
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Re: Freighters and Cargoships

Well, bringing a new pod for a Nebula to Starbase 73957893 would require a transport with powerful warpcore and tractor emitters to grab it from a shipyard and fly it to the starbase for fitting.

There will always be a need for dedicated transports. Even bulk stuff like Antimatter is probably delivered to Starbases from dedicated manufacturing facilities. Varius small items like Bularian canapés, field rations, or Romulan Ale would need to be transported.
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Old March 15 2014, 11:19 AM   #45
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Re: Freighters and Cargoships

Nob Akimoto wrote: View Post
I'm kind of skeptical that "interstellar commerce" is really a thing for bulk goods. In general any star system worth inhabiting will have enough natural resources to not require bulk freight. A replicator economy would make this even more likely. Instead, the only things that would have practical value as freight cargo would be low mass/high value items or finished products.
...
Going back to the restaurant analogy, I doubt you'd ship in finished soup! Especially if the you're promoting that contents of that soup being veg grown on three different planets.
Yeah if you're making completed souvenirs from Alpha C to Earth then you can ship them in bulk.
I don't think it's unrealistic for there to be a complete network of corporate shipping considering 150 planets, average of 3 billion people per planet?? and 450/500 billion people wanting all sorts of stuff?
The alternative would be calling StarFleet and asking if they have a spare spot in their cargo bay and praying they're going in your direction.
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