Import/Export have to do with moving goods from where they are to where they are needed. Understanding how this is done is one of the most important thing in the game.

At first, however, use the default settings. They'll do the job just fine until you get father into the game.

Uh? What was that?

Here's an example. Suppose you have a Foundry on a Volcanic planet producing Steel. We know from the Production Tree that Steel is made from Iron and Coal. Now it happens that your Foundry is running out of Coal. And it also happens that you have a pile of Coal sitting on the docks of a farway colony. Wouldn't be nice to have that Coal be moved to where you need it automatically? Well, that's exactly what the Import/Export orders are for.

The Hard Way

The hard way is when you do all the work yourself. Here's how you could do it. Bring your fleet to the planet where the Coal is. Use the Starport there to load the Coal into your fleet's Cargo Bay. Then fly over to your colony with the Foundry on it. Again, use the Starport to unload the Coal onto the planet. Of course, this can be tedious and costs a lot of flight time which you could have used to discover new worlds or other more enjoying and profitable tasks.

  • Use the Starport to pick up the Coal
  • Move your fleet to the other colony
  • Use the Starport unload the Coal

Use Freighter Fleets

The alternative (and the best way to achieve the same results) is to use Freighter Fleets. You start the game with a sizable fleet of freighters ready to serve. Freighters follow the import and export orders you specify on each colony.

Warning! Freighters take some time to move things around. Allow one turn to come fetch a pickup, and one move to deliver it. Look at your freighters' status from the Fleet Report.

This link will tell you more about those fleet reports.

Tell your Colonies to Export

For colonies extracting minerals or producing goods, it might be a good idea that the ores or goods be taken out and moved to another colony as needed. Or simply sold to other players. To that end, you can set an EXPORT order for that good on that planet. You can do this from the System View, the screen where you can view your colonies.

As soon as the Export order's requirement is met, which is, if there is enough ore to be exported. A freighter will come pick up the goods. For example, if you set the export value to 25, a freighter will come only when there are at least 25 of that item to pick up. Freighters always unload their cargo to the Tradepost.

Tell your Colonies to Import

For colonies producing goods, it might be a good idea that they be supplied with the required ores and goods on a regular basis as needed. To that end, you can set an IMPORT order for that good on that planet. You can do this from the System View, the screen where you can view your colonies.

As soon as the Import order's requirement is met, which is, if the the supply of a particular good drops below a particular quantity, a freighter will come deliver the goods. The freighters always take their load at the Tradepost. For example, if you set the import value to 5, a freighter will come only when there are less than 5 of that item on the planet. Freighters always loads themselves at full capacity at the Tradepost before making the delivery. Of course, a freighter won't come if there's no goods available at the Tradepost!

Here's an example.

You attacked and killed a Pirate ship. You scavenged ship structures and you were told they were being sent to the Tradepost... All right you say, but you have that Shipyard of yours that requires Ship Structures to build that new Shuttle ship you want to produce.

So you want those Ship Structures available on your Home Planet! How do you have this done you ask? Simple, you just have to wait! Indeed, your Home Planet already has an IMPORT order for Ship Structures. So all the Ship Structures you have sitting in the Tradepost will be brought to the Shipyard automatically by your faithful freighters... Cool, huh?

The Tradepost is a Stash

Thus, the Tradepost is actually a Stash! By looking at the quantities shown there, you can see which goods you have in excess in your empire and which are in dire need. This makes it easy for you to know when to buy and sell goods to other players!

Have enough freighters

You have only a limited number of freighters. When you overuse them, some orders won't be respected. You'll know when this happen if you look at the Fleet Report.

Freighters can hold only 25 items at any given time. Thus, to maximize their use, you might want to set the export value to 25. Especially if the item is not expensive and not in shortage. The Republican players will notice that their freighters can carry up to 33 items at once.

However, you can't optimize your fleet's routings over a certain point. When your empire reach a critical size, it becomes mandatory to build more freighters to keep things running smoothly. You can do this from your Shipyard. (Add Freighter Hulls to the production).