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I know that it all varies on who is sitting at the gate camp, but in general, what is considered a safe upper limit of total item value to carry out in a freighter?

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Just evemail me the exact time you plan to exit and the amount of stuff you're carrying and I'll tell you if it will be safe. :P –  Steve V. Jul 11 '12 at 1:05
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2 Answers

up vote 21 down vote accepted

The well-known Freight Corporation Red Frog takes contracts up to 1 billion ISK, citing that value as the threshold where suicide ganking a freighter becomes profitable:

The 1 billion collateral is because that is just below the profitability threshold of hisec suicide gank fleets.

Being below that limit won't prevent any goons from blowing you up for fun, but it should stop suicide gankers that are after the money.

A very rough estimation of the cost of a suicide gank would be:

  • Tornado with 1400mm T2 Artillery:
    • 11-12k damage every 13.7 seconds (overheated)
    • costs around 125 million (estimate from Pyfa)
    • ~ 1 shot in 0.9-1.0 space before CONCORD, maybe 3 shots in 0.5 space
  • Freighter EHP: 160k

So it would require very roughly 15 Tornados in Jita, costing 1.875 billion ISK.In 0.5 sec space a third of that might be enough, so it would require only 5 Tornados, 625 million ISK. As only half of the cargo drops statistically, you would have to carry 1.25 billion worth of cargo for that to be profitable.

This is a very rough calculation, it is possible to gank with cheaper ships (though it's more effort to get enough Catalysts in one place to gank a freighter) and the 3 shots in 0.5 are just an estimate.

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Safety is relative. The simple answer is: "However much you can afford to lose is the amount that it's safe to carry out."

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I'm debating whether to downvote this or not. We all know the cliche, and it isn't what was being asked for. –  Fadeway Jul 11 '12 at 7:14
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@Fadeway - I wasn't trying to be snarky. It's almost impossible to pin "safe" to an exact value, and the question acknowledges that. I gave the most generally applicable answer that I still felt was correct. –  Steve V. Jul 11 '12 at 14:45
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The cliche seems offtopic, but really isn't, the real answer to this is probably a combination of the two answers. If you can't afford to replace it, say if the collateral for losing the cargo would put you out of business, then it's not safe to fly even if you would be an unprofitable gank. Similarly, if it is a profitable gank, it's never safe to fly, regardless of your ability to take the loss. –  Stephanie Oct 31 '13 at 11:06
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