Freighters and Cargoships

Discussion in 'Trek Tech' started by Lt.Juliet, Feb 12, 2014.

  1. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    ...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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  2. Nob Akimoto

    Nob Akimoto Captain Captain

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    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.
     
  3. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    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.
     
  4. EmperorTiberius

    EmperorTiberius Captain Captain

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    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 canap├ęs, field rations, or Romulan Ale would need to be transported.
     
  5. Johnny

    Johnny Commander Red Shirt

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    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.
     
  6. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Actually, in "Metamorphosis", either the Federation or mankind is "on a thousand planets and spreading". This probably includes a handful of inhabited worlds and a much larger number of nearby uninhabitable worlds being exploited by the UFP/mankind, with minimal or no live presence. 150 UFP members might mean 150 homeworlds, each with billions of denizens, but a colony typically features just thousands or even mere hundreds of people, and even the well-established hubworld Deneva only had a million or so people; we never ever heard of a non-homeworld with billions of people.

    I'd say the argument for a freight network is all the more solid for this. But this does make one wonder why freighters would remain categorically ENT-slow in the TOS era. Sure, "Friday's Child" might be ignored as an outlier, but it would be much more satisfactory to invent a fancy reason for the slowness, since nothing in TOS really contradicts it, either.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  7. EmperorTiberius

    EmperorTiberius Captain Captain

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    I got the impression that New Sidney from DS9 (not a memeber of Federation) and Turkana IV (Tasha's colony) might number in millions and even billions. I don't remember if exact numbers were ever mentioned, but the sheer size of infrastructure would have them in millions at least.
    But the rest of the colonies are indeed really small, Jouret IV, Omicron Theta, Rana, etc

    The slowness of freighters might have to do with civilian ownership. Individual using them might not have enough resources to acquire powerful components, which would include, not only a warp drive, but materials of which to build ship struts, SIF, warp coils, etc. You would also need highly qualified personnel to run this, and engineers don't come free. Instead, he joins a network of steady stream of slow freighters, either organized by Starfleet or Merchant Marine-like organization, and they get the same effect as having a few transports with high speed running back and forth.
     
  8. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    The former was a big mine; might be there's no colony there at all. We only saw very few people, and those seemed to form a close-knit community... There might be a big city or a planetwide civilization outside the mine, though, interacting only minimally with the mine people.

    The latter was a single underground city of known dimensions. Perhaps large enough to hold millions, but essentially empty and even partially deserted inside.

    The model by which freighters in TOS remain slow is plausible as such, for the type of operations that is not time-critical in any way: ore or grain hauling and the like. Yet this conflicts, sort of, with the idea of very small freighter vessels that must be hauling high value-per-mass items... Those probably couldn't afford to be slow. I guess it's just a statistical artifact that we see one type and hear of another - and for some reason, the small ships aren't counted as "freighters" but perhaps "trading vessels" or something.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  9. ngc7293

    ngc7293 Commander Red Shirt

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    What about the Shelley Class? DITL shows it as a Cargo Vessel.
     
  10. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Much depends on how we interpret the scale of that kitbash. Is she as big as her saucer indicates? Or as small as her warp engines do?

    If the former, then there's plenty of internal volume for cargo, and the things that look like shuttlebays can be shuttlebays for loading and offloading. If the latter, then many parts of the ship are too slim for load-carrying, and the "hangar doors" become too low to really serve as cargo barge entrances. But the entire ventral hull can then be interpreted as one big cargo grapple, ideal for towing one or more of those Franz Joseph style cargo pods!

    Of course, having the Excelsior saucer means having the twenty phaser emitters, too; perhaps a bit excessive for a transport vessel?

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  11. ngc7293

    ngc7293 Commander Red Shirt

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    The majority of non hero ships are kit bashes. The thought in mind is in universe. If you look at it from that point of view then all kit bashes are just ships of one kind or another.

    What I am referring to is that thing the Shelley carries underneath.
     
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2014
  12. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    De facto, the only thing she carries underneath is the standard secondary hull for a ship of Excelsior type, only moved forward a bit and given a second shuttlebay where the connecting neck used to stand. By that token, her role could be identical to that of the Excelsior, plus a few extra shuttles...

    If we scale the ship down by her engines (as the hulls as such feature no scale-establishing detail, just portholes that don't even demarcate obvious decks, that is, they don't give a clear-cut "deck density" count) then her role as a slightly deformed Excelsior is cast in doubt. A smaller ship is more likely to hold a lesser role, perhaps that of a transport. If so, the "thing dangling beneath" might well be a cargo grapple designed to hold on to a FJ pod. Or then a spare part of some wholly different ship, being towed by this dedicated fleet tug. Or then a detachable fighting section, or a field hospital, or a mere ornament for all we know.

    Personally, I like the idea of both these kitbashes (the one with the vertical engines as well as the other with the horizontal ones) indeed being fleet cargo tugs. The registry range is fitting for the Mediterranean class of semicanon transports, FWIW...

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  13. ngc7293

    ngc7293 Commander Red Shirt

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    Well you pretty much confirmed what I said (ie Shelley Class as a cargo ship). But with more words. :)

    I think it is known as one of the ugliest kitbashes, but DITL suggests it as a cargo ship, though realistically there really isn't that much room. I am sure that looked better than something else they might have created.
     
  14. varek

    varek Commander Red Shirt

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    Using materials from various vessels to construct freighters or transports--say, from various scrapyards--is a great idea! I'm sure the Ferengi and other trading races would like to utilize such profitable "kitbash" materials.

    And, please forgive me if I overlooked anyone else's post, but many races seem to make their living by transporting goods (mostly) and people for the Federation. So, perhaps Starfleet finds it easier and cheaper to hire these experienced captains and crews than to train them for Starfleet service.

    As mentioned above, Starfleet vessels do transport people and cargo, although usually in smaller numbers and quantities, respectively.