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A question about shipping companies in Honorverse

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Re: A question about shipping companies in Honorverse
Post by Jonathan_S   » Thu Aug 10, 2017 1:43 pm

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robert132 wrote: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.
In general I agree, but I can think of two exceptions where warships can be revenue generating.

One is obviously to go privateer, or pirate, and use the warship to seize other people's ships/cargo. (As noblehunter pointed out that the East India Company of your example was known to do from time to time)

The other the armed guard service model. Get into the for profit convoy business; charging other shippers to escort a convoy including their ships and deter the pirates. But that's only feasible if the costs to hire defenders is less than the costs of forgoing them - so the chance of piracy would have to be pretty high to make that attractive.
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Re: A question about shipping companies in Honorverse
Post by Rednek731   » Thu Aug 10, 2017 2:56 pm

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So what I'm interpreting from all of this is that the only way a corporation that wasn't also a state could possibly run a fleet of Q-Ship's on it's own (ignoring whether or not they carry LAC's for now) is if that corporation either had a license/permit from every star nation they shipped to/from, or if they were going to a select group of star nations (possibly operating through a mutual trade agreement) that mutually agreed to grant licenses/permits to allow this one corporation to bring Q-Ships within their borders for the purposes of trade (although that might be admittedly unlikely, as said licenses/permits would probably limit their business to that group of star nations).
Also, that a corporation that was primarily a shipping company could only be allowed by the larger galaxy to own and operate their own warships (most likely of limited scale), and would only make a legitimate profit from those warships being used if they only used them for defensive actions in defense of their assets (such as a privately owned/leased orbital shipyard, or of their merchantman that are traveling in places that have relatively high concentrations of pirates) or if they used the warships as hired muscle and sort of leased them out to convoys from other companies which couldn't protect themselves but were willing to pay for a relatively cheap (probably cheaper than a government ship anyway, although I could be wrong) means of defense against pirates/privateers/warships from enemy nations/etc.
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Re: A question about shipping companies in Honorverse
Post by Jonathan_S   » Thu Aug 10, 2017 4:25 pm

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Rednek731 wrote:So what I'm interpreting from all of this is that the only way a corporation that wasn't also a state could possibly run a fleet of Q-Ship's on it's own (ignoring whether or not they carry LAC's for now) is if that corporation either had a license/permit from every star nation they shipped to/from, or if they were going to a select group of star nations (possibly operating through a mutual trade agreement) that mutually agreed to grant licenses/permits to allow this one corporation to bring Q-Ships within their borders for the purposes of trade (although that might be admittedly unlikely, as said licenses/permits would probably limit their business to that group of star nations).
Also, that a corporation that was primarily a shipping company could only be allowed by the larger galaxy to own and operate their own warships (most likely of limited scale), and would only make a legitimate profit from those warships being used if they only used them for defensive actions in defense of their assets (such as a privately owned/leased orbital shipyard, or of their merchantman that are traveling in places that have relatively high concentrations of pirates) or if they used the warships as hired muscle and sort of leased them out to convoys from other companies which couldn't protect themselves but were willing to pay for a relatively cheap (probably cheaper than a government ship anyway, although I could be wrong) means of defense against pirates/privateers/warships from enemy nations/etc.
More or less.
There are legal constraints and economic constraints.

As far as we know there is no legal constraint against a private individual or commercial company from building, owning, and operating armed vessels.

In fact the Andermani Empire was founded by y Gustav Anderman, a highly successful mercenary who had a shrewd business sense. His mercenary company had their own warships and apparently, way back then, made sufficient profit from their contracts to keep the business healthy.

However it is illegal to enter the territorial space of an owned star system without permission from its owners. And it appears extremely common for governments to refuse that permission to other people's armed non-military ships or private warships. This legal sovereignty combined with normal policies against allowing armed ship permission combines to make armed freighters effectively prohibited regardless of economics.
(Obviously treaties, contracts, or other methods could grant ongoing permission for specific armed ships to enter given star systems)

As for private warships, they may be looked upon with suspicion but again it doesn't appear to be illegal to own one. But like armed freighters almost no system will allow their entry. So while a company could legally choose to own and operate them to, say, provide escorts between systems while never entering those system's territorial space it would appear cost prohibitive to do so without additional funding sources.

So the choices of being mercenary (whether defensively or offensively), getting a letter of marque to be a privateer in some war are essentially driven by economics. You don't to do those to legally own a warship - it's just damn hard to afford the upfront and ongoing costs of owning one if you don't.
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Re: A question about shipping companies in Honorverse
Post by cthia   » Thu Aug 10, 2017 5:49 pm

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Rednek731 wrote: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?

You have an interesting question and I think it holds water. I can see specialized uses for armed merchant ships. Don't they have Wells Fargo in the Honorverse? There are probably niche markets in other related areas. These would be special cases would yield to system wide standards. Such as being bonded, licensed and registered.

They probably already have something like that in the Verge, necessity being the mother of invention with its ghetto status. Ever tried to order a pizza in the ghetto? The pizza guy gets robbed. Armed freighter security for hire. AFS as opposed to OFS in a more local capacity. LOL


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Keep in mind though that having freighters armed on a general basis presents the human element.

It's that human factor again guys.

When you visit another systems port of call and you are in the traffic queue with everybody else who is unarmed, you do not want to suddenly be confronted with some SOB of a freighter captain packing missiles! It is too intimidating. There is such a thing called road rage, well, space rage is much worse. "You cut me off, you SOB!" Boom!

Also, the more obvious, to me, reason. If you allow that such a thing in your system, then you risk increasing the chances of the enemy's Case Zulu of being successful by your enemies opening up their first round of volleys from a number of Trojan horses of armed freighters shooting on helpless ships in orbit with wedges down.

Son, your mother says I have to hang you. Personally I don't think this is a capital offense. But if I don't hang you, she's gonna hang me and frankly, I'm not the one in trouble. —cthia's father. Incident in ? Axiom of Common Sense
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Re: A question about shipping companies in Honorverse
Post by Brigade XO   » Thu Aug 10, 2017 8:48 pm

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Bachfich's freighters show you one option. He seems to have had had a Silesian Government permit which allowed him to operate withing thier boarders. He also purchased the ships-formerly armed fleet auxiliaries-from the Aldermani with the weapons systems intact and would most likely buying reloads and spair parts from the Aldermani who would also have given him permits to operate armed ships within the Empire.
You have to consider that the Empire knew who he was and what his history and capability was so it was unlikely that he was going to turn pirate. For them, it was a way to recover costs on, eventialy, two surplus auxiliary ships and have a capable captain out there hunting pirates which takes some of the pressure off their own ships deployments.
Bachfich isn't nessisarly going looking for pirates, he is running an independent freighter service and he has customers and financing to service and contracts to meet. But, he is willing to go places that might or might not have a pirate waiting to pounce on a merchant ship and is apparently well armed and maintains a practiced (and experienced) crew to fight his ships which means that he can make better money taking potentialy more difficult runs and seems to be better armed than your garden variety Silesian pirate. He's operating a legal Q-ship, just not a a commerce raider. He looks like a typical target freighter, he actualy has big teeth and has the pirate comming into him.

Could you set someting up like this out in the Verge? Sure. How many single system Star Nations would appreciate a former armed military auxiliary making cargo runs for them? If they come with the right endorsements it could work.
The problem that is about to come up is that shortly you could have a whole bunch of former SLN light to medium warships that may be turning pirate or just mercenary (or carving out a single system empire) and using their DD or CA or BC to commerce raid out in the dark. We saw what happened when Bachfich ran into the Peep DD. He was never equiped to go up against that and knew it but took a risk to gather intelligence and it cost him. He and the ship survived, he was even refitted by a grateful Manticore and Hancock.

By the same rational, former BF/FF ships might, in a mercenary role, contract to cover shipping and perform convoy work if they found a market for that. Remember that Monica was "renting" troops and ships for use by various customers. Partialy that helped them build up their own SDF to make them an unappitizing target for other systems and partialy helped keep FF/OFS off them since they were providing troops and ships on a contract basis which let OFS get a commission on deals and, sort of, keep a lower profile.
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Re: A question about shipping companies in Honorverse
Post by Theemile   » Thu Aug 10, 2017 10:24 pm

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Brigade XO wrote:Bachfich's freighters show you one option. He seems to have had had a Silesian Government permit which allowed him to operate withing thier boarders. He also purchased the ships-formerly armed fleet auxiliaries-from the Aldermani with the weapons systems intact and would most likely buying reloads and spair parts from the Aldermani who would also have given him permits to operate armed ships within the Empire.
You have to consider that the Empire knew who he was and what his history and capability was so it was unlikely that he was going to turn pirate. For them, it was a way to recover costs on, eventialy, two surplus auxiliary ships and have a capable captain out there hunting pirates which takes some of the pressure off their own ships deployments.
Bachfich isn't nessisarly going looking for pirates, he is running an independent freighter service and he has customers and financing to service and contracts to meet. But, he is willing to go places that might or might not have a pirate waiting to pounce on a merchant ship and is apparently well armed and maintains a practiced (and experienced) crew to fight his ships which means that he can make better money taking potentialy more difficult runs and seems to be better armed than your garden variety Silesian pirate. He's operating a legal Q-ship, just not a a commerce raider. He looks like a typical target freighter, he actualy has big teeth and has the pirate comming into him.

Could you set someting up like this out in the Verge? Sure. How many single system Star Nations would appreciate a former armed military auxiliary making cargo runs for them? If they come with the right endorsements it could work.
The problem that is about to come up is that shortly you could have a whole bunch of former SLN light to medium warships that may be turning pirate or just mercenary (or carving out a single system empire) and using their DD or CA or BC to commerce raid out in the dark. We saw what happened when Bachfich ran into the Peep DD. He was never equiped to go up against that and knew it but took a risk to gather intelligence and it cost him. He and the ship survived, he was even refitted by a grateful Manticore and Hancock.

By the same rational, former BF/FF ships might, in a mercenary role, contract to cover shipping and perform convoy work if they found a market for that. Remember that Monica was "renting" troops and ships for use by various customers. Partialy that helped them build up their own SDF to make them an unappitizing target for other systems and partialy helped keep FF/OFS off them since they were providing troops and ships on a contract basis which let OFS get a commission on deals and, sort of, keep a lower profile.


But the main reason Bachfich was able to keep his ships running is he operated at an elevated cost. He was a Wells Fargo courier as opposed to a Fed Ex truck - you pay more to have the armored truck with armed guards deliver your package than you do the Fed Ex guy.

The problem is, can the verge planets really afford that model? The reason why "a tramp freighter shows up 1 or 2 times a month" is because the planet doesn't have/need cargos worthy of larger ships - If they had cargos valuable enough to need bigger/more ships, they would come. And if bigger cargos were coming in, someone would send bigger ships to deliver the goods - if they were needed.

This is kind of a Chicken and the egg problem - if you don't have big exports, you cannot afford to pay someone to guard them; If you do have big exports, you already have a navy which can do it for you. Silesia was an unusual situation perpetuated by 2 strong outside influences which mutually benefited from the political instability which allowed the piracy situation. Without the stalemate of the RMN and IAN protecting Silesia (from other outside influences and itself), it either would have collapsed, been forced to fix its own issues, or been taken over by an outside party. Instead, Manticore and the Anderman Empire perpetuated the death spiral and kept the standard of living high with their exports and trade to the region, despite the piracy and political upheaval.

Elsewhere, you either have a strong protective force, or you really don't have the economy to have a massive piracy problem. Yes, pirates may hit you once, but the economics don't suggest that they can stick around because another juicy target is not coming. Besides, it appears that much of the piracy in the Verge was actually SLN FF ships in disguise, opening the doors for transstellars and OFS.
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RFC said "refitting a Beowulfan SD to Manticoran standards would be just as difficult as refitting a standard SLN SD to those standards. In other words, it would be cheaper and faster to build new ships."
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Re: A question about shipping companies in Honorverse
Post by Fireflair   » Fri Aug 11, 2017 3:07 am

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Bachefish also had some other things going for him. He's an RMN trained captain (admiral by rank through longevity on the seniority list), that counts for a lot of intangible value when operating a ship which is an armed auxiliary. Two, the way to getting the Andermani ships was smoothed for him. Not just the Andermani part, but in Silesia as well. Pat Givens over at ONI helped him get his letters of marque and he implied in a discussion with Honor that she also helped with some of the first big cargo runs/contracts he picked up.

He runs, as has been suggested, a Wells Fargo style operation. He also acts as HUMINT for RMN ONI.

The long and the short of the idea is that running your own armed transports, be they slow or fast, is possible and possible to do in a fashion that turns a profit. But you need the right set of conditions, such as obtain in Silesian space.

It's entirely probable that such conditions could be coming to life in the shell or verge as the SL sheds systems and OFS or individual star systems begin to look for easy pickings.

The suggestion about mercenary work is a good one and I don't think any of the stories really address mercenaries in the Honorverse. Pirates, auxiliaries, privateers and regular service seem to be covered. I don't see why there couldn't be mercenary work available.

Where there's a need, there's probably a business which will spring up to fill it. Grease the right palms, know the right people... The Alliance can't be everywhere and if there's a problem that could be solved by light weight mercenary ships moving around, destroyer or frigate sized most likely, or even a merchant hull with parasite LACs like Honor had, that might become a business model that's functional despite the cost of weapons, training and maintenance. You could certainly charge a premium. Insurance companies would probably give you a discount if you ran in convoys or with armed escorts too.
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Re: A question about shipping companies in Honorverse
Post by Nyssa   » Fri Aug 11, 2017 9:49 am

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Armed merchant ships are quite common. Remember, the Marianne/Golden Butterfly was armed and nobody made an issue of it. But it was not capable of dealing with a well handled warships. Q ships by definition are.
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Re: A question about shipping companies in Honorverse
Post by Duckk   » Fri Aug 11, 2017 9:53 am

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The suggestion about mercenary work is a good one and I don't think any of the stories really address mercenaries in the Honorverse. Pirates, auxiliaries, privateers and regular service seem to be covered. I don't see why there couldn't be mercenary work available.


Gustav Anderman is the most prominent mercenary mentioned in the text thus far. It's also stated that Mesa is home to a number of mercenary groups.
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Re: A question about shipping companies in Honorverse
Post by Gunny   » Fri Aug 11, 2017 9:57 am

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During WW II there were a number of merchant ships fitted with an artillery piece operated by a small Navy detachment. I';ve never heard of such ships being denied port admission because of the gun. Nor have I ever heard of the gun doing anything useful.

There was also the Hurrycat, a Hurricane fighter on a catapult that could be launched if needed. I've only heard of them being used once when a German patrol plane was investigating a Russia bound convoy. They started the engine on the fighter and the patrol plane saw the engine running and left the scene.

There well may have been other incidents where the gun or plane did some good.

In the Honorverse there may have been the possibility of carrying a LAC or two externally on a merchie so as to not take up space used for cargo.
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