The Typhoon Maiden is roughly two kilometres long. The bottom deck is predominantly cargo space. Allowing for a rough width of the ship to be 500 metres, and a hull thickness of up to 50 metres, this gives us a space 400 metres wide. If we accept that anything up to 500 metres of the back of the ship is taken up with drives, this leaves us with a cargo deck roughly 1500 metres long by 400 metres wide.
It seems likely that over the years and decades, areas of this deck will have been walled off by various trading owners to protect their cargo from larceny and scrutiny. Down here it will be another city again, and I expect that we could find the very poor living out of containers because they cannot afford the apartments in the city deck, above.
As a general rule of thumb the major method of containing and transporting cargo is by the standardised 15m x 3m x3 metre cargo container, similar to the ones we see today, but with thicker hulls. These are stacked transversely across the deck (long side facing side to side) in blocks two deep, 10 long and 4 high, giving a block of 80 containers. Above and beside each block are gigantic robot used arms to lift and move the containers. Allowing for a 30 metre gap between each block this makes 6 blocks wide, and 25 blocks deep (front to back on the deck) for a total of 12,000 containers.
This is an awful lot of cargo space. The majority will be owned by the major trading companies operating on the ship, though many smaller traders will have a few, right down to the up and coming entrepreneur who has borrowed enough money to buy one, has filled it with whatever junk he could afford on the last stop, and hopes to turn it over at the next.
Doubtless there are hundreds of containers that are currently unowned and/or abandoned as the owners suffered lethally back luck or simply ran out of cash and cannot pay the rent. Who knows what treasures lie in these forgotten steel boxes?
The deck space between these blocks of containers is busy with lifts that can drop containers down to the cargo barges, or lighters, for transportation down to planets. These lighters are little more than orbital tugs that can carry up to 100 containers at a time. There are 50 of these slung under the Typhoon Maiden.
When a ship pops out of the warp and makes the days or weeks long journey in system to the inhabited planet(s) the communications systems come alive. During this time intense negotiations are undertaken with the locals for the display and sale of the ship’s goods, and for pickup of the planetary goods. As well as these buy/sell negotiations, internal wrangling occurs for use of the lighters. There are simply not enough to get everything down at once, and the order of goods hitting planet side can affect the prices. Naturally, the bigger trading houses get the first chance to drop their goods, commandeering (for which they must pay) entire lighters. Later, if they can, the small traders buy space to get their containers down and then back up – hopefully with different contents.
Finally, the best way to stow away on a ship is to be brought up in a container. As a consequence, security should be interested in the movement of the containers and their contents. But that’s another post.