Hive World Terra

Merchant Charters

Warning: This definition may contain spoilers from any number of Games Workshop novels or source books.

Merchant Charters: A charter is the arrangement by which a captain is allowed to own and operate a starship within Imperial Space. Although there are many types of charter, they all involve the swearing of an oath of fealty to the Imperium, the Emperor and the fleet authorities of the Segmentum. Without this, no captain can even register his vessel, let alone ply the space lanes of his home sector. The Oath must be sworn before the Master of the Segmentum the captain intends to register in, and therefore takes place in the Segmentum Fortress. An indelible record is then entered by the Segmentum’s historitors and held in their records; in rare cases copies of the record may also be sent to other Segmentae or even to Terra.

The various charters are as follows:

Hereditary Free Charter: the most highly prized of all the charters, and also the oldest and rarest. A Hereditary Free Captain nominates a successor to his command from within his crew or family (often synonymous aboard merchant vessels). The nominee then swears a new Oath with the Segmentum authorities when the former captain either dies or retires (also, often synonymous). A captain who operates under this type of charter is free in the sense that may trade throughout the Segmentum in which he is registered; carrying cargo as he wishes to where he wishes – within Imperial Law, of course. Many of these ancient charters cover all 5 Segmentae Majoris, allowing a vast range and freedom to these lucky few.

Hereditary Charter: the difference between a Hereditary Charter and a Hereditary Free Charter is that a hereditary charter has a fixed route or routes and may only trade on these specific routes. Otherwise, the same procedure of nomination and replacement described above applies. Obviously, some routes are more profitable, and thus carry greater prestige.

Free Charter: Free captains command individual ships by appointment; they are usually fleet officials who have already distinguished themselves in some way, or simply worked their way up the ranks. Free Charters often form part of an Imperial Navy ‘retirement package’ – for distinguished flag officers and bold linemen alike. Free Charter captains may trade as they wish within the Segmentum, but are often forbidden from infringing on the routes of Hereditary captains. Free Captains therefore often operate on the fringes of both territory and legality, roaming less populous sectors and freelancing wherever they can.

Fleet Charter: The bottom of the Charter pecking order. A Fleet Captain is assigned his ship and his position in the same way as a Free Captain, but must ply his trade along the route or routes prescribed to him by the Mercantile Fleet. A Fleet Captain can also be re-called to shore duty or otherwise disinvested of his command and his vessel by the whims and needs of Fleet administrators, rendering this the least secure of the Charters and relegating a ship’s Captain almost to the role of delivery-man for the Mercantile Fleet.

A Typical Charter: The cargo ship Amaranthus operates as part of the Merchant Ultima, under a Hereditary Free Charter registered during the 32nd Millennium. It has been captained by a member of the Sorensen family for over nine thousand years and is one of oldest ships in the Merchant Ultima. The Amaranthus has undergone several re-builds since registration, including one within the last two hundred years. Simon Forrest, Rick Priestley, Andy Chambers, White Dwarf 140

Source: White Dwarf: Issue 140 by various

Submitter: Simguinus