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Commercial Shipping refers to interplanetary shipping operated by the civilian sector. Each Empire will have one or more Shipping Lines that carry out colonization and trade. Each Shipping Line establishes and maintains their own shipping fleets to carry colonists, installations, and trade goods between the empire's colonies. This initially aids the colonies' initial growth, and later boosts wealth generation through taxation.
Shipping Lines are private companies. They form and maintain their own shipping fleets; these fleets do not require government resources such as shipyards, fuel, maintenance, crews, or minerals. Such fleets employ Freighters, Colony Ships, Fuel Harvesters, and Luxury Liners. Each Shipping Line develops its own ship classes, but will use your empire's technology to build improved ships and expand its trading capacity.
As soon as a commercial design with freight, passenger, or harvesting capacity is possible, the shipping lines will slowly begin building them. These can be used to carry colonists and trade goods between the empire's colonies, handle civilian contracts, and harvest from gas giants. Although ships can land on any colony, you should consider building a Commercial Spaceport on high-traffic worlds to speed up loading and unloading, improving shipping line efficiency.
Shipping generates wealth for the shipping line and for the parent government in the form of tax. You can use the 'Shipping Lines' overview screen (Ctrl+L) to see the details of these companies such as their income, the dividends they pay to their shareholders, and their shipping fleets. If shipping is profitable, more ships will be built. When a new ship is built, the shipping line will retire the oldest ship of the same general type (with a minimum of 10 years older) that is not currently carrying cargo. All civilian ships will be scrapped when they reach 15 years old, regardless of whether a new ship has been built.
If no civilian ships are built in your empire, make sure that the shipping lines have the wealth to buy them. The cost of a ship is equal to its Build Points. To encourage shipbuilding, you can subsidize them. Each click on the "Subsidize" button adds 1,000 wealth to their coffers and takes an equal amount from your own. You'll slowly recover that expense, though, because they pay taxes for every shipment they make. The amount of taxes generated by shipping can be seen in the 'Wealth' tab of the Economics window.
Shipping line fleets will travel between the empire's colonies as it identifies trading opportunities. However, they will never build a jump-capable ship or utilize Jump Tenders to cross between systems. For them to ship between colonies, you must build a Jump Gate network. (Don't forget to put a gate on both sides of each jump point - a single jump gate only allows one-way travel.)
A trade treaty will allow your shipping lines to move goods between your Empire and another. This further extends your reach, gaining you access to new markets and alien trade goods. It should be noted that trade routes are not mutual. Each empire calculates its own trade routes separately, and trade is 'one way', like exports or deliveries. Granting access doesn't guarantee that you receive access.
Civilian ships will avoid systems where there has been recent conflict unless sufficient warships are in that system to provide protection (the Danger Status of systems is shown on the Galactic Map as red numbers above the system, and will gradually reduce over time) Note, that while you cannot command private ships, you can ban certain destinations preventing private ships from traveling to those system bodies (planet, moon, asteroid, comet). This is done via 'Ban Body' button in the System window (F9).
You can make civilian contracts to use the civilian shipping fleets to ship your own installations (such as mines and factories) between worlds. To do this, you must set up two contracts: a Supply contract for a good on a colony with that good, and a Demand contract for the same good on a colony where you want the good to be sent to. Contracts can be set up in the Civilian tab of the Economics window. Upon completion of the contract, your empire will pay the fleet a fee.
For example, to have the civilian ships move mines to Mars, add a supply of 50 mines on Earth and a demand of 50 on Mars. The civilian freighters will begin shipping mines to Mars now. The contract list will be updated to show how much goods are still waiting. You will be notified if a ship tries to pick up freight that is not available on the planet. If more than one colony has demand for a certain item, you cannot control which one is served first.
Colony ships (ships with cryogenic chambers or passenger modules) will automatically pick up colonists from Colonist Sources and transport them to Colonist Destinations. The colonist status of a colony can be set from the Civilian tab of the Economics window. The options are Source, Stable, and Destination. Colonies with a population less than 25 million will be set at Destination until they exceed 25 million colonists, at which point you can choose the colonist status. (Note that colony ships can cause infrastructure-based colonies to become overpopulated. To prevent this, you may want to set your homeworld as Stable once the colony nears its capacity.)
Civilian Fuel Harvesters
Civilian Shipping Lines can build fuel harvesters. These harvesters will (slowly) make their way to gas giants with Sorium and start harvesting. Unlike other civilian shipping, these fuel harvesters will appear as potential destinations when you select Task Groups on the F12 orders window, so you can order your fleets to refuel from them. Refuelling from civilian harvesters costs 1 wealth for each 10,000 litres of fuel.
Once a civilian fuel harvester is full, any excess fuel is sold to the private sector. This also generates tax revenue equal to 20% of the fuel price.
See Also and Notes
- See Trade System for details on Civilian Trade Goods and how the civilian sector builds infrastructure.
- As of v7.0, Shipping range is unlimited, previously it was limited to 4 jumps.
- Prior to v6.00, civilian shipping lines used players designed ships. See Commercial Shipping v5.60 for tutorial and relevant information for that version.