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A question about shipping companies in Honorverse

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A question about shipping companies in Honorverse
Post by Rednek731   » Wed Aug 09, 2017 9:08 pm

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Now I understand that this is a potentially stupid question, and I will gladly accept any and all criticisms provided they also include sound counter-arguments and such. However, please note that this is my very first question.
At any rate, what I'm asking is this; could a company, with enough money and resources at it's disposal, have armed merchant ships transporting goods and perhaps (just perhaps) even a small fleet of warships (most likely nothing heavier than a destroyer) to protect those merchant ships.
For further context lets say there is a completely made up company; Kenway's Armed Shipping. This company has it's own private fleet of warships (again, nothing bigger than a destroyer), along with heavily armed and possibly even armored merchant ships. Let's go a little further and say that these oversized merchant ships have LAC's onboard like in Honor Among Enemies, both to use as hidden escorts and a potential anti-missile screen. Could a company like that exist theoretically exist in the Honorverse, or better yet would such a company even be allowed?
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Re: A question about shipping companies in Honorverse
Post by Duckk   » Thu Aug 10, 2017 7:47 am

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There's nothing really stopping anyone from arming merchant ships. We see this in both HAE (Hauptman's Artemis liner) and WoH (Bachfich's freighters) being armed.

The real problem is political more than anything else. In both cases, the lack of effective government in Silesia made operating armed civilian ships possible. Likewise, there are stretches in the Verge that wouldn't really care, or lack any means of enforcing a ban. But go to any "first world" (or even second world) system, and you'll quickly find out that such ships aren't welcome. It's for the same reason we really don't arm merchant ships today.
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Re: A question about shipping companies in Honorverse
Post by Rednek731   » Thu Aug 10, 2017 8:16 am

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Duckk wrote:There's nothing really stopping anyone from arming merchant ships. We see this in both HAE (Hauptman's Artemis liner) and WoH (Bachfich's freighters) being armed.

The real problem is political more than anything else. In both cases, the lack of effective government in Silesia made operating armed civilian ships possible. Likewise, there are stretches in the Verge that wouldn't really care, or lack any means of enforcing a ban. But go to any "first world" (or even second world) system, and you'll quickly find out that such ships aren't welcome. It's for the same reason we really don't arm merchant ships today.


I figured as much, but I also figured "money talks" in this universe, and you could pretty much buy the right to your own fleet as long as you were willing and able to pay for it. Although now that I think about it, convincing a legitimate first or second world government to allow in heavily armed and armored Q-Ships within their territory would most likely be on the scale of buying out an entire planet wouldn't it?
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Re: A question about shipping companies in Honorverse
Post by munroburton   » Thu Aug 10, 2017 8:25 am

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Yes, lots of them could afford to arm their ships. Hauptman has well-defended passenger liners and Thomas Bachfisch operated a pair of armed merchantmen.

However, both of those examples were used in the Silesian area. Generally, the rest of the universe doesn't permit armed merchant vessels to make port calls - Bachfisch got around this by registering his ships as Silesian Naval auxilaries. I'm not sure what the arrangements regarding Hauptman's liners were - but those liners were specifically built for the Silesian run, so he probably paid the Silesian government off for permits.

The small fleet of warships - again, Hauptman was able to partly finance a small number of frigates for the Anti-Slavery League(or Audobon Ballroom). Those ships now serve in the Torch Navy, but they were not welcome everywhere.

A real world parallel would be looking at the merchant vessels moving through the Gulf of Aden; whilst they might take on security guards armed with assault rifles(who can easily disembark when required), they're not allowed to mount 5 inch artillery pieces because of the legal issues which would arise when they reach their destinations(eg. Rotterdam, New York, London).

The possibility of LAC-carrying modules being created has been raised before. The idea would involve a freighter jettisoning its hangar module(s) - it would have to be the whole hangar to account for missile stockpiles or locally illegal mil-spec spare parts in storage - outside a star system's hyper limit, proceeding to the port and making retrieval before re-entering hyperspace.

It's all about the bottom line. For the shipping cartels, insurance is cheaper(given the licenses and permits to arrange in each independent star nation on any given trade route) than operating armed freighters and private warships.
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Re: A question about shipping companies in Honorverse
Post by Nyssa   » Thu Aug 10, 2017 10:10 am

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I wonder how the money would work out. There are statements in the stories about warships having much higher service costs, including shorter lives on twice as many nodes. Also, they need much larger crews. Unless you are running convoys, and I can not see any Verge company shipping that much to one system at one time, you would need a warships to accompany each freighter. If your warships met a governmental warships, how would they prove they are not pirates? For that matter, how would you keep the crews from taking the ships and doing a little freelance pirating?
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Re: A question about shipping companies in Honorverse
Post by noblehunter   » Thu Aug 10, 2017 12:05 pm

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Nyssa wrote:I wonder how the money would work out. There are statements in the stories about warships having much higher service costs, including shorter lives on twice as many nodes. Also, they need much larger crews. Unless you are running convoys, and I can not see any Verge company shipping that much to one system at one time, you would need a warships to accompany each freighter. If your warships met a governmental warships, how would they prove they are not pirates? For that matter, how would you keep the crews from taking the ships and doing a little freelance pirating?

I think the potential pirate issue is the strongest reason why the armaments would be illegal. If for no other reason than to keep merchies from temptation.

The real question is how much of a threat is piracy in the wider galaxy? Silesia was a perfect storm of government effective enough to inspire substantial trade, incompetent enough that it can't keep pirates out, and corrupt enough to actively encourage piracy.
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Re: A question about shipping companies in Honorverse
Post by robert132   » Thu Aug 10, 2017 1:32 pm

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Duckk wrote:There's nothing really stopping anyone from arming merchant ships. We see this in both HAE (Hauptman's Artemis liner) and WoH (Bachfich's freighters) being armed.

The real problem is political more than anything else. In both cases, the lack of effective government in Silesia made operating armed civilian ships possible. Likewise, there are stretches in the Verge that wouldn't really care, or lack any means of enforcing a ban. But go to any "first world" (or even second world) system, and you'll quickly find out that such ships aren't welcome. It's for the same reason we really don't arm merchant ships today.


Excellent response Duckk. I'd like to add something in response to the other part of his question, a shipping line utilizing warships to escort their merchantmen.

Warships are highly specialized ships with only the ability to destroy targets and the owner's wealth. They do nothing to pay for their own existence outside of those few minutes of combat, an existence that may stretch over decades. They are hellishly expensive to operate, crew pay and upkeep (i.e. food and other stores,) fuel, ammunition (missiles and such, gotta practice afterall) and maintenance (some of which WILL require the expensive TLC of a shipyard,) and warships can carry nearly zero cargo to help defray expenses.

Historically in the days of sail when both armed merchants and warships were available most shippers including the insanely wealthy British and Dutch India companies opted for well protected and armed merchant ships to fight off raiders, pirates and privateers, only buying or "leasing" warships on rare occasions, and even then the smallest that could reasonably be expected to handle the mission and gotten rid of as quickly as possible afterward.

The "Indiaman" type of merchant was large enough, heavily constructed enough and well enough armed that on occasion they would be "appropriated" by the government for use by the Navy as auxiliaries or even as warships themselves and be returned to the owners, assuming the ship survived.

Normally if heavier metal was necessary to see Indiamen safely on their way the Indiamen and other merchantmen would gather into groups for mutual protection and, if one happened to be going in the same direction, proceed in company with a warship of the home nation. The British in particular did this quite often during the wars with France, Spain, The Netherlands and (1812 - 1815) the United States.
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Just my opinion of course and probably not worth the paper it's not written on.
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Re: A question about shipping companies in Honorverse
Post by ldwechsler   » Thu Aug 10, 2017 2:03 pm

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robert132 wrote:
Duckk wrote:There's nothing really stopping anyone from arming merchant ships. We see this in both HAE (Hauptman's Artemis liner) and WoH (Bachfich's freighters) being armed.

The real problem is political more than anything else. In both cases, the lack of effective government in Silesia made operating armed civilian ships possible. Likewise, there are stretches in the Verge that wouldn't really care, or lack any means of enforcing a ban. But go to any "first world" (or even second world) system, and you'll quickly find out that such ships aren't welcome. It's for the same reason we really don't arm merchant ships today.


Excellent response Duckk. I'd like to add something in response to the other part of his question, a shipping line utilizing warships to escort their merchantmen.

Warships are highly specialized ships with only the ability to destroy targets and the owner's wealth. They do nothing to pay for their own existence outside of those few minutes of combat, an existence that may stretch over decades. They are hellishly expensive to operate, crew pay and upkeep (i.e. food and other stores,) fuel, ammunition (missiles and such, gotta practice afterall) and maintenance (some of which WILL require the expensive TLC of a shipyard,) and warships can carry nearly zero cargo to help defray expenses.

Historically in the days of sail when both armed merchants and warships were available most shippers including the insanely wealthy British and Dutch India companies opted for well protected and armed merchant ships to fight off raiders, pirates and privateers, only buying or "leasing" warships on rare occasions, and even then the smallest that could reasonably be expected to handle the mission and gotten rid of as quickly as possible afterward.

The "Indiaman" type of merchant was large enough, heavily constructed enough and well enough armed that on occasion they would be "appropriated" by the government for use by the Navy as auxiliaries or even as warships themselves and be returned to the owners, assuming the ship survived.

Normally if heavier metal was necessary to see Indiamen safely on their way the Indiamen and other merchantmen would gather into groups for mutual protection and, if one happened to be going in the same direction, proceed in company with a warship of the home nation. The British in particular did this quite often during the wars with France, Spain, The Netherlands and (1812 - 1815) the United States.



There were also convoys but those get tricky if ships break off to go to different planets, which did happen in Silesia.

Piracy could happen anywhere but obviously only did well in areas that were not well-controlled...liked Silesia. Since generally the cost of being caught was death, unless there were political ways to get pirates away (as happened in Silesia), the life of pirates was often not really good.

Again, they had to operate in areas without modern navies. Also, keep in mind that the wedges on military ships were far better. There was a story somewhere about a weapon that could take down wedges but it only worked on civilian ships.

Since running a pirate ship was expensive, most were small. That made it possible for armed merchantmen to fight.

When nations did it as the Peeps did in Honor Among Enemies, regular merchantmen had no chance. Of course, Wayfarer was tougher and beat the daylights out of a lot of Peep warships.
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Re: A question about shipping companies in Honorverse
Post by noblehunter   » Thu Aug 10, 2017 2:18 pm

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robert132 wrote:[

Excellent response Duckk. I'd like to add something in response to the other part of his question, a shipping line utilizing warships to escort their merchantmen.

Warships are highly specialized ships with only the ability to destroy targets and the owner's wealth. They do nothing to pay for their own existence outside of those few minutes of combat, an existence that may stretch over decades. They are hellishly expensive to operate, crew pay and upkeep (i.e. food and other stores,) fuel, ammunition (missiles and such, gotta practice afterall) and maintenance (some of which WILL require the expensive TLC of a shipyard,) and warships can carry nearly zero cargo to help defray expenses.

Historically in the days of sail when both armed merchants and warships were available most shippers including the insanely wealthy British and Dutch India companies opted for well protected and armed merchant ships to fight off raiders, pirates and privateers, only buying or "leasing" warships on rare occasions, and even then the smallest that could reasonably be expected to handle the mission and gotten rid of as quickly as possible afterward.

The "Indiaman" type of merchant was large enough, heavily constructed enough and well enough armed that on occasion they would be "appropriated" by the government for use by the Navy as auxiliaries or even as warships themselves and be returned to the owners, assuming the ship survived.

Normally if heavier metal was necessary to see Indiamen safely on their way the Indiamen and other merchantmen would gather into groups for mutual protection and, if one happened to be going in the same direction, proceed in company with a warship of the home nation. The British in particular did this quite often during the wars with France, Spain, The Netherlands and (1812 - 1815) the United States.

Also note the Dutch East India Company, as least, was not above a little privateering/piracy when the opportunity presented itself. I presume the other Companies did as well. Why beat the competition when you can loot them?
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Re: A question about shipping companies in Honorverse
Post by Brigade XO   » Thu Aug 10, 2017 2:32 pm

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Torch and it's frigates represents one end of the options. Torch is a sovereign star system (though disputed up to this point by Mesa) It is POSSIBLE for someone as wealthy as Haupman to set up in a star system (think Technodyne's industrial manufacturing system with shipyards or Grendlesbane), and set up their corporation as a government. Grendlesbane not so much but you get the idea. Technodyne is a large Transtellar and, although it probably has hypercapable warships that can defend it's manufacturing, they probably are not going to be showing up anywhere else.
The problem is that, although a system such as Beowulf may be set up as a corporation, it is a Star Nation. I'm not sure exactly the definition of Star Nation but what we have seen so far is that all of them seem to be centered on one or more habitable planets which are, in fact, inhabited.
We see Honor and company talking about somebody (the Alignment though at the time they didn't have a name and still don't have a location) that is ACTING like a Star Nation which implies that they have a population base, a habitable system (somewhere) and an industrial base to some level of support for it's operations.

However, the question of operating armed merchants or private hyperspace warships does fall under Star Nations which can enforce their own laws or can effectivly project their ability to enforce their laws and various treaty based laws and customs beyond their own hyperlimits.
That is why Manticore and the Aldermani could run convoy and anti-piracy patrols in Silesia. The Silesian Confederacy plainly could NOT enforce their own laws and provide for the protection of shipping. There were probably treaties in-place but Manticore and the Aldermani plainly could tell -with proper diplomatic cover and the battle-steel gauntlet in the velvet glove- that they WERE going to be allowed to send their own warships to deal with the pirate problems.
The SL has/had Battle Fleet and Frontier Fleet to cover the League and the Protectorates. That neobarbs such as Manticore could bring enough political and economic pressure to focus on the SL to permit it's warships to be accorded access to SL space unden the Laws of Space truly pissed them off but they were caught in that whole economic/diplomatic trap of having to follow their own rules as they enforced them on everybody else.
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