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hal 12-29-2018 03:08 AM

Shipping in a Traveller Universe
Hello Folks,

What follows is something that I posted in another forum for Traveller, and i thought it was worth mentioning here for those who might want to think about it...

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

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.

The response that I got was this:

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

So, my response to the response follows below:

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.

hal 12-29-2018 03:08 AM

Re: Shipping in a Traveller Universe
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. ;)

SteveS 12-29-2018 11:23 AM

Re: Shipping in a Traveller Universe
For laser rifles, we can assume that the power pack consist of two types of components: the power (batteries, regulator electronics, the cable to the rifle, and possibly a charging cable) and the pack (the straps and padding that hold it on the soldier's back). It's also possible that the rifle could consists of a shooting assembly and inert components (stock, etc.), but it's reasonable to assume that the stock is packed with functional parts like capacitors and such, with advanced accessories such as friend-or-foe electronics and heads-up-display interfaces thrown in to higher technology models; after all, you'd want your laser weapons to do all the cool stuff an ACR can do if you have the technology for it.

So, to get to the point, it's quite plausible that a TL6 world importing laser rifles for special troops might want to save some shipping expense by ordering just the power components of the power pack (possibly plus adapters to charge from a TL6 dynamo instead of a fusion power plant), and manufacturing the pack components locally. That further reduces the shipping-related cost, if the power components pack tighter that way.

In the Bic pen example, I would note that the customary conversion between real world currency and the Imperial Credit is Cr1 equals one 1978 US dollar. I think that's about four present-day dollars.

Back to military gear, I can imagine that a tremendously popular import item would be laser pointers, particularly if they're designed to be attached as target designators. Clamp a laser pointer on a locally built bolt-action rifle and you have a much more accurate weapon. Clamp it on a flintlock rifle and you can shoot the hat off an enemy officer from ridiculous range. Clamp it on a master bowyer's recurve bow and you're a sniper archer. That all assumes training for drop and wind, of course, but it would be a big tactical advantage (or equalizer if your enemies are similarly equipped).

Of course there would be logistics involved in keeping the batteries charged, but ultra-tech batteries can power a low-power device like a laser pointer for a long time, and every shot that hits because of the laser pointer is one less cartridge or arrow that needs to be carried to the battlefield. Don't forget to buy a few solar chargers for base camp if your technology doesn't include utility power.

hal 12-29-2018 12:04 PM

Re: Shipping in a Traveller Universe
Hi Steve,
One of the things worth noting is that one could easily SELL solar panels to low tech worlds as a means for powering up batteries where necessary.

Note too, that when I originally presented the information in my first two posts, it was for the Mongoose Traveller forums. Normally, anything like this would also have been posted to the Citizens of the Imperium forums, but, having had issues with the Moderator breaking the forum rules with his own posts, I resolved to stay clear of the forum. Since then, I've run into others who have left CotI for much the same reasons. :(

In any event, the whole point in bringing this up, was to point out that some "goods" are profitable for long distance shipping despite the seemingly prohibitive cost of 1,000 credits per jump (Old style CT rules) or the rules used in MgT or the rules used in GT.

My sneaking suspicion is that if a good/item is manufactured at a TL 10 world, sold at TL 10 prices - the prices for TL 10 goods on TL 9 or less planets will depend upon which TL 10 manufacturer is closest to the world in terms of jumps. Now, if you have world A that manufactures widget A, and World B that manufactures Widget A - the real issue might end up being the quality of Widget A when manufactured, or it might be that World B offers features not found with the product that World A does not include.

Take for instance, the batteries used to power energy weapons. If, for every 10 batteries sold, the battery Manufacturer includes one solar panel charging station - you KNOW that the manufacturer will not sell that charging station at a loss. To make the charging station pay for itself, he likely would increase the battery cost by say, 10% of the break even cost of the charging station, making his batteries a touch more expensive than the other ones. But then he can market his product saying "For the low price of 100 credits, you can by a charger station, or you can buy 10 batteries and I'll throw in the charger for free" If he sells his charger station separately, he would get his usual profit margin plus the cost of manufacturing etc. The other way, he has a built in incentive for people to buy his batteries in 10 battery lots.

In any event - for my own Traveller campaigns, the cost for shipping is either of Volume based or weight based (ie, if the weight for the volume exceeds 5 tons, the shipping is weight based, if the volume is such that the weight is less than 5 tons, the shipping costs are volume based). This way, something that is 10 tons I mass, ends up using 2 dTons of volume - and shipping costs are weight based.

So - maybe someday, it might be worth it to classify how many item units can occupy 1 dTon of volume, tally up its weight, and also its cost overall. Then toss that into the "speculative goods" category as speculative cargo. The real issue is "how much protective volume is required to handle goods so that they aren't damaged in transit". With the M1 Garands - I largely suspect that the 7.3 cubic feet used for 10 rifles does not imply that each rifle uses up .73 cubic feet by volume in and of itself. Some of that volume is simply for ease of access for the rifle itself, along with structural bracing for the box.

When I tried to figure out what the weight of the case sans rifles would be, I had to cheat a little...

I set up my spreadsheet to calculate the volume of the box by its outside dimensions. Then I set the spreadsheet to remove 1 inche from each dimension and calculate the new volume for that new "inner box". Subtracting the inner box from the outer box gave me a pine box with 1" thick boards. That in turn gave me about 1 cubic foot worth of volume, and at 33 lbs per cubic foot density for pine, gave me a box that when empty, was about 33 lbs. Toss in 10 rifles at 10 lbs apiece, and that crate would weigh between 133 lbs to a likely 150 or even 175 lbs with internal bracing etc. (I used 150 lbs myself).

So, how big do the boxes have to be to carry a TV, Radio, medical supplies, etc? THAT is an exercise I can't give an answer to. But if I go with a rule of thumb that is each item takes up between 2 to 3x its normal volume for packaging - I figure it won't be TOO far off the mark and give us workable estimates. If high tech material science can give us armoring that is more effective against damage, or higher structural strengths etc - then High Tech packing technology for shipping probably kept apace with material technology.

Somewhere in the rules for character creation, are rules for what high tech goods above your campaign average technology is worth. I want to say x10 or something like that (maybe it was in GURPS VEHICLES?) - but a modest x2 price increase due to shipping would seem to imply that high tech goods produced on worlds - for export, would readily be competitive pricewise with goods on a lower tech world even at 2x the cost. Why use 1950's telephones when you can get by with 2018's cell phones?

One could also imagine for example, some enterprising fellow buying old broken cell phones on a world that can't repair them, and offering 10% of what the phone is worth in exchange - ship them to a world that can repair them, and then selling refurbished cell phones elsewhere at a profit. The only thing keeping that from happening is whether the cost of shipping the broken phones plus the repair costs is less then what the item can be sold for elsewhere.

Fred Brackin 12-29-2018 12:54 PM

Re: Shipping in a Traveller Universe

Originally Posted by hal (Post 2231800)
e with material technology.

Somewhere in the rules for character creation, are rules for what high tech goods above your campaign average technology is worth. e.

Those are in Gurps 4e and are x2 per TL. They are quite abstract and shipping would probably be only one factor.

jason taylor 12-30-2018 12:11 AM

Re: Shipping in a Traveller Universe
What is the purpose of a Garand-equiv, as opposed to an ACR? Are you trying to manipulate some quarrel between natives? If so it is probably off the beaten path with the locals short of money.

Do the rifles have accessory mounts? Telescopic sights? Infra-red sights? Bayonets? Grenade launchers?

hal 12-30-2018 03:15 AM

Re: Shipping in a Traveller Universe

Originally Posted by jason taylor (Post 2231925)
What is the purpose of a Garand-equiv, as opposed to an ACR? Are you trying to manipulate some quarrel between natives? If so it is probably off the beaten path with the locals short of money.

Do the rifles have accessory mounts? Telescopic sights? Infra-red sights? Bayonets? Grenade launchers?

The purpose of the Garand equiv as you put it, was to use real world data - specifically, cost, weight, volume etc - vs what the rules for Traveller specify.

Page 179 of GURPS INTERSTELLAR WARS states that there will be no trade between two worlds separated by 20+ parsecs of distance. I'm suggesting that the rule(s) need to be looked at more closely.

If you can ship 500 units of Widgets at say, 50 credits per widget when sold retail on the world that manufactures the TL 10 Widget - what would the price of that same widget be if we had to add in shipping costs of 1,000 credits for 1 parsec's journey to a world that is 20 parsecs away?

20 x 1 KCr = 20 KCr for the final total paid for that 1 dTon of cargo capacity
20 KCr / 500 units = 40 credits per unit.

SO a 50 Cr item, with a shipping markup of 40 credits, would now have to sell for 90 credits at the very least. If such a product can't be manufactured locally, or the cost to produce that product locally exceeds 90 Cr - then it is cheaper to ship that product 20 parsecs than to manufacture it locally, and trade is worth the effort.

How far can you ship that widget worth 50 credits before the cost per unit drives its price to 100 cr (double its base worth)?

50 x 500 = 25,000 Cr. One would be able to travel some 25 parsecs at 1,000 per parsec distance before that level is reached.

So widgets, garands, computers, Solar panel power cell rechargers - you name it. One would have to know how many units per dTon can be shipped to determine wither or not transporting the item long distance is viable or not.


J. L. Brown 01-07-2019 04:09 AM

Re: Shipping in a Traveller Universe
It looks like manufactured goods can go quite a few parsecs before they become unprofitable; but raw resources and agricultural products seem to stack up differently. A metric ton of dry white rice sells for ~US $400 -- and approximately 10 metric tons fit in a dTon. I am using as a reference.

Given this, it seems like an agricultural world will support only the planets within about five or six parsecs, while an industrialized world will trade much further. Perhaps manufactured goods don't trade at the full distance implied in the original calculations because a nearer world can out-compete on price with shorter transport requirements.

Even with the lower prices per dTon of raw materials and agricultural products, it still seems like they trade over a wider area than the OTU seems to imply. In well developed subsectors, the cuisine (including imported food) should change pretty gradually between maybe four or five regions, centered on the main agricultural producers.

Pomphis 01-07-2019 06:59 AM

Re: Shipping in a Traveller Universe
As jump drives are volume-based, not mass-based: would dehydrating agricultural products help to save volume?

hal 01-07-2019 09:44 AM

Re: Shipping in a Traveller Universe
Back in the day, I remember bumping into a major inconsistency with respect towards the price of Grain in Classic Traveller, and the knowledge of how many bushels one can carry within a displacement ton from of all places - STAR TREK role playing game.

Years later, one can go to an online converter, enter in 1 bushel = how many cubic feet, and the answer becomes:

dry bushel = 1.24445601851852 foot^3

Assuming 500 cubic feet per dTon, that means that a single dTon of volume can carry 401.7819775 dry bushels.

so call it your "units" per dTon.

So, let's look at GURPS INTERSTELLAR WARS for a moment. Grain, Flour, Baked Goods sells for $5,000 per dTon. If we divide the value per dTon by 400, that brings us a price in the vicinity of $12.50 per bushel. I don't know about you, but flour in my neighborhood isn't being sold today at anything like those prices.

Looking it up on the web, I get this...

"Amount: 1 bushel dry (bsh, bu) of all purpose flour (APF) volume
Equals: 41.05 pounds (lb) in all purpose flour (APF) mass"

So - we now have knowledge of how many bushels (401) per dTon the Traveller Universe would really be able to ship of all purpose flour, and we now know that all purpose flour used in baking comes in at 41.05 lbs per bushel.

At 12.50 Solars (I think that was the currency used in GURPS Interstellar Wars), the price per lb of flour as a speculative good, was being sold at
.304506699 Solars.

Think about that for a moment. At, if you looked up All Purpose Flour, the prices per pound range as low as .66 per pound to as high as 5.90 a pound. That is still 2x higher than what it is priced at in Interstellar Wars (assuming a Solar equals a Dollar - which can be argued it isn't).

Now, let's assume that we are using shipping containers to contain the flour. Let's say we lose 10% by volume, space due to the containers. That gives us a useful volume of only 360.9 cubic feet for the $5,000 - making the unit value per lb change from .3045 to .3375.

So, how far could a shipment go before the cost per parsec change the value by 100%?

If we carry 360.9 bushels of all purpose flour per dTon, and a bushel is equal to 41.05 lbs, that means we're shipping 360.9 x 41.05 lbs per dTon. That works out to 14,814.945 lbs per parsec.

A single jump would cost (and I'm going to stick with GURPS INTERSTELLAR WARS to keep costs relative to each other...)

700 solars per parsec travelled. So, dividing 700 by 14,814, the added cost per lb of all purpose flour (at 5000 solars per dTon, becomes .05 solars per parsec (rounding to 2 digits).

.34 / .05 - results in a distance of 6.8 parsecs travel before the price per pound of all purpose flour doubles.

So, yes, commodities would be limited to a relatively shorter range before its prices double. The question now would be - "Is that a good or bad thing?"

For a world where food production is poor, any food is better than no food, then doubling or trebling its value probably would be worth it. If one doubles the cost of food, then either the wage earned has to be increased to handle the increased food costs, or the other prices for non-food expenses suffer or have to be relatively cheaper.

Things get even more interesting if you consider the trade rules/concepts developed for the Gravity Trade model. An agricultural world exporting grains, would have to export 24 dTons of grain to equal 1 dTon of imports for pharmaceuticals or ammunition for firearms. It would have to export 600 dtons of grains to equal 1.5 dTons of Industrial crystals (assuming standard 100% value of goods being sold to each other).

So, yes, I'd expect that resources with a low value per dTon suffer from ranges drastically as compared against high tech or high value "manufactured" goods. I would also suspect that if World A produces 100,000 dtons of manufactured goods, with a 24:1 ratio of goods required to exchange resources for finished goods, it would take 24 worlds producing 100,000 dtons of goods to equal the trade of that one world. That's 2.4 Million dTons of exports to that world, just to be able to enjoy 100,000 dtons split between 24 worlds - of that one industrial world.

Kind of a sobering thought no?

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