The long strange trip
Subsidized Merchant (Type R)
Subsidized Merchant (type R): Using a 400-ton hull, the subsidized merchant (often called the fat trader) is a trading vessel intended to meet the trading needs of clusters of worlds, usually under a subsidy. It has jump drive-C, maneuver drive-C, and power plant-C, giving performance of jump-1 and 1-G acceleration. Fuel tankage for 50 tons supports the power plant and allows one jump-1. Adjacent to the bridge is a computer Model/1. There are thirteen staterooms and nine low berths. The ship has two hard• points and two tons set aside for fire control. No weapons are mounted. There is one ship’s vehicle: a 20-ton launch. Cargo capacity is 200 tons. The ship is streamlined.
The ‘fat trader’ requires a crew of five: pilot, navigator, engineer, medic, and steward. Up to two gunners may be added. The pilot also normally operates the launch. The ship can carry eight high or middle passengers and thirteen low passengers. The ship costs Cr101.03 (including 10% discount for standard designs) and takes 14 months to build.
STARSHIP DETAILS From the exterior, the Type R is a streamlined, somewhat chunky starship with a modified delta swept wing. Huge cargo doors break the lines of the nose, and form the rear tail area. Smaller loading doors are visible on both sides of the ship, and control room windows on the upper surfaces. Riding piggyback on the upper surface of the ship is its 20-ton launch.
The ship itself rests on large landing gear pylons which hold the ship at a standard height above the ground. These pylons are capable of “kneeling” to change height and place the cargo deck and bow doors at a better level for cargo loading and unloading.
Variants: The low jump potential of the ship’s drives has prompted the production of demountable fuel tanks for this ship. A modular 40-ton fuel tank can be installed in the cargo bay. Installation cuts off the rear doors and makes them unusable. Using these tanks, the ship can make a second one parsec jump with only a twenty hour delay. The delay is required because of standard safety checks required on the ship, and to allow pumping the fuel from the demountable tanks to the wing tanks. Fuel must be in the wing tanks for proper feed to the drives. Cargo capacity of the ship is reduced to 160 tons. The demountable tanks cost MCr.5.
It is important to remember that these demountable tanks are not collapsible. When removed or not in use, they still take up 40 tons of space, and must be stored or warehoused in some manner.
THE SUBSIDIZED MERCHANT
Worlds off the major routes have found that ship subsidies can be used to establish dependable trade service. The concept of a ship subsidy involves second-order trade policies. A first-order trade policy is followed by a trading company intent on making a profit; second-order trade policies involve making trade possible without necessarily generating a visible profit. Governments can often be content to have the fringe benefits of trade – such as the higher tax incomes which result when trade increases the local standard of living.
The March class subsidized merchant is an example of a merchant ship intended to fill otherwise vacant trade channels for worlds which feel they need commerce. Its large cargo capacity makes it reasonably efficient, although its small jump drives restrict it to jump-1, and thus to worlds which are within one parsec of each other.
March class merchants are produced throughout the Spinward Marches, and have an excellent service record. Available from a variety of shipbuilders. the most notable producers in the Spinward Marches include General Shipyards, Ling Standard Products, GSbAG, and Clan Severn.
The usual text of a subsidy agreement cells for a ship to service an agreed-upon route for at least 70% of each year; for the remainder of the year, the ship can undertake charters or service routes to other worlds. In all cases, however, the subsidy holder receives 50% of gross revenues. At times. unscrupulous ship captains circumvent these provisions by smuggling.