The term Cargo refers collectively to all tradeable material carried by a ship. Each version of Pirates! features several types of Cargo that can be bought, sold or looted, then placed in a ship's hold and carried across the Caribbean. Some Cargo serves only for trade, other Cargo used by your crew in or out of battle.

Each ship can carry a finite, pre-defined amount of Cargo, based on its Ship Type. Cannons and Food are both considered Cargo, and behave in much the same way as all other types of cargo, despite having more importance than as mere trade goods. Crewmen, though carried on a ship, are not Cargo and do not take up Cargo space.

The Caribbean Economy and its fluctuations make trade in Cargo possible, though it is not nearly as profitable as looting cargo off enemy Prizes. As a result, most players will not bother buying low and selling high - but only selling high.

General DescriptionEdit

In the various versions of Pirates!, a selection of up to 6 different commodities can be carried by ship. These commodities are referred to as "Cargo". Cargo consists of inanimate goods, carried in the ship's hold.


The simplest method to acquire cargo is to purchase it at a Port. In the later game, other locations may also sell cargo.

Each Port has a different amount of cargo on hand to be sold, and may or may not have any amount of each type of cargo on hand. Once the local warehouse runs out of cargo, no more can be bought, however the warehouse it will replenish its stock with time.

Additionally, all ships traveling through the Caribbean carry at least some Cargo of one type or another. When a ship is Boarded successfully by the player, its cargo can be looted without paying.

Selling CargoEdit

Cargo can be sold at any Port that offers Merchant Service.

Merchants only have a certain amount of money on hand, and cannot buy more than they can afford. As long as they have money on hand, Merchants will buy any cargo they can afford without question.

Cargo on ShipsEdit

Each "unit" of cargo represents a single ton (metric/imperial unspecified) of one specific material or goods. A ship can only carry a certain number of tons of Cargo, and no more. This is called the ship's Cargo Capacity.

Cargo Capacity is defined strictly by Ship Type. Two ships of the same type can carry the same amount of cargo. There is no way to increase or decrease the amount of cargo a ship can carry.

AI-controlled ships carry a random amount of cargo up to their defined Cargo Capacity. AI ships will always carry at least some cargo - they are never completely empty.

The Cargo Capacity for the Player's Fleet is determined by combining the individual Cargo Capacity of all ships in the fleet. You do not need to distribute cargo between your ships, as it is done automatically. If a ship is sold or lost, Cargo Capacity decreases. If the carried amount exceeds the new reduced limit, you will be asked to dump some of it to the sea. In some cases, it can be sold beforehand (such as when scuttling or selling ships at Ports). In others you'll be asked to select what cargo to dump overboard, and cannot proceed until you meet the limit.

Types of CargoEdit

Each game features up to 6 different types of Cargo (specifically, 4 in the original game. 6 in the later game). Each type of cargo still takes exactly 1 ton of Cargo Capacity per "unit", but has a different buy/sell price at various Ports or other locations.

Two of these Cargo Types are "useable" cargo: Cannons and Food, as explained below. These are used by your crew in your travels. The remaining 2-4 types of cargo are only used for trade, i.e. sold for money, and have no other practical use.

Cannons and FoodEdit

The two useable types of cargo are Cannons and Food. While they can be sold for money like any other kind of cargo, and take 1 ton of Cargo Capacity per unit as normal, they also obey specific rules that do not apply to other types.

Food is required for feeding your Crew. Over time, food carried on board your Fleet is consumed by your crew. The more crewmen you have on board, the faster your food will be depleted. Each game uses a different food consumption rate, and will also have a different indicator to let you know how much longer you can keep sailing with your current amount of food. If food ever runs out while at sea, you may face a Mutiny. All AI-controlled ships encountered in the Caribbean carry at least some Food.

Cannons are used in Naval Combat. Each ship can only use a certain amount of cannons in combat (as defined by its Ship Type, regardless of how many cannons your Fleet is carrying. Depending on the game, cannons may be bought either individually or in pairs. In either case, a single "unit" of cannons still takes 1 ton of Cargo space, like all other cargo. Additionally, it is impossible to buy Cannons in most (if not all) locations - it can only be looted off enemy ships or during Raids. Cannons can also be lost during Naval Combat as result of damage taken. This is the only type of Cargo that can be lost in battle, except when one of your ships is sunk (in which case you may need to lose cargo to meet your new Cargo Capacity). A ship losing its cannons in combat cannot replace them with new ones from the cargo hold until combat is over.


Your Crew is not considered cargo. It cannot be bought nor sold. It does not take any room in the Cargo hold of your ship. Instead, ships have their own unique "crew capacity" value to determine how many crewmen they can carry. In some games, this only applies to Naval Combat, meaning your Fleet can carry as many crewmen as you manage to recruit. In any case, carrying less Cargo does not let you carry more Crew, and vice versa.

Icon Pirates1987 Header Pirates1987Pirates! (1987)Edit

Pirates! (1987) features 4 different types of Cargo to be traded:

  • Goods
  • "Secondary" cargo

The "Secondary" cargo type varies between Eras. In 1560, it is Hides. In 1600-1620, it is Tobacco, and in 1640 and later it is Sugar. This is mainly a cosmetic change, though Tobacco appears to be the cheapest commodity available (more than Goods and Food), while both Hides and Sugar appear to the most expensive. Due to the variable nature of the Caribbean Economy, this is hard to ascertain for sure.

Cannons are always acquired and sold in pairs. Each pair takes up 1 unit of cargo space, like a unit of any other cargo. Cannons cannot be bought anywhere, they must be looted off enemy ships or taken during Raids. A pair of cannons is always sold for 50 Icon GoldCoin.

If your Fleet's Cargo Capacity is ever below the amount of cargo carried, you will be asked to dump cargo overboard, using the same menu as the Merchant / Looting screen. This means you can decide which cargo is lost. You cannot continue playing until your carried cargo is at or below the new limit. This applies when ships are sold or sunk, regardless of circumstances.

At the start of your career, you will always have some Food and Cannons available (the amount is rigidly defined by your Nation/Era selection). You may additionally have a certain amount of additional cargo on board, again defined by selected Nation/Era.

When Dividing The Plunder, all cargo carried by your Fleet is automatically lost. For this reason, it is important to try to sell all your cargo before Dividing - to make a little extra money.

Icon Pirates2004 Header Pirates2004Sid Meier's Pirates! (2004)Edit

Sid Meier's Pirates! (2004) offers 6 different kinds of Cargo to be traded. In the following table, cargo is arranged by value (from least valuable to most valuable, in terms of price):

Sid Meier's Pirates! (2004) Cargo Types
Cargo Type Image Typical Value
Cannons 2004 Cargo Cannons Lowest (0 Icon GoldCoin - 2 Icon GoldCoin)
Food 2004 Cargo Food Low (2 Icon GoldCoin - 5 Icon GoldCoin)
Sugar 2004 Cargo Sugar Mid-Low (3 Icon GoldCoin - 6 Icon GoldCoin)
Goods 2004 Cargo Goods Mid-High (5 Icon GoldCoin - 10 Icon GoldCoin)
Spice 2004 Cargo Spice High (7 Icon GoldCoin - 20 Icon GoldCoin)
Luxuries 2004 Cargo Luxuries Highest (10 Icon GoldCoin - 30 Icon GoldCoin)

* Please note: Gold values are approximate, and may fluctuate beyond the listed valued due to shifts in the economy. In non-Port locations, all goods are considerably cheaper than the listed values.

The same selection of 6 Cargo types appears in all Eras.

Luxuries are the most expensive type of Cargo, and in wealthy Ports it can reach 30 Icon GoldCoin - especially in Ports that specialize in this commodity. It is followed by Spice, then Goods, then Sugar. Food is considerably cheap almost anywhere.

Cannons can only be sold. You may only loot cannons from enemy ships after a successful Boarding. Cannons are sold piece-meal, with one cannon taking up a single ton of Cargo space. Cannons are the cheapest commodity, and in poor Ports or other similar locations may have a value of 0 Icon GoldCoin, meaning that no profit can be made from selling them there.

Transactions at a PortEdit

Cargo can be purchased in virtually every visitable location, including Settlements, Jesuit Missions and even Indian Villages. However, only Ports provide high prices for cargo, and have more cargo and money on hand for trading. Other locations may have only a few tons of cargo in total to trade, but will sell available cargo for very cheap prices.

Some Ports specialize in one type of cargo. In this case, the price of said cargo will be considerably high or low in proportion to the local economy, as appropriate.

Furthermore, once the rank of Major has been attained with a European Nation, all Ports belonging to that nation will offer more cargo for sale. This effect is increased significantly when the rank of Count with said nation has also been acquired.

Cargo on AI-controlled ShipsEdit

All AI-controlled ships carry at least some cargo of one type or another. Particularly, any ship will carry at least some Food and a minimum of several cannons (4 seems to be the lower limit). As in all previous versions of the game, this cargo can be looted by successfully Boarding the ship.

Cargo found on enemy ships is greatly affected by the ship's Role. For example, a Grain Transport will carry a large amount of Food and little else. A Treasure Ship will usually carry a large amount of expensive goods (Luxuries or Spice) in addition to its large stash of Gold.

Cargo on Player-Controlled ShipsEdit

As in previous versions of Pirates!, the game pools together the Cargo Capacity of all ships in the Player's Fleet to get a total Fleet Capacity. This is the amount of cargo your fleet can carry, and you are free to fill this up as you see fit.

If a ship from the Fleet is sunk during Naval Combat or on the Sailing Map, the fleet's combined cargo capacity drops respectively. If the new limit is lower than the amount of carried cargo at the time, the game automatically discards cargo until this new limit is met. The game does so in a specific order:

  1. The game dumps ton after ton of the lowest-value trade cargo it can find, until either the new cargo limit is met or until there is no more of that cargo type remaining on board.
  2. If the limit has not been met, the game proceeds to dump the next lowest-value commodity in the same manner.
  3. If all trade commodities have been dumped (or not found on board) and the capacity limit is not yet met, the game will proceed to dump Food.
  4. Finally, if nothing else helped, the game will begin to dump the Cannons.

If attempting to scuttle or sell a ship, and doing so will lower the Fleet's cargo capacity below the current total cargo carried, the player is notified of this via pop-up confirmation. If confirmed, the game will automatically dump cargo overboard as explained above. In this case, you can avoid dumping important or valuable cargo, by trading it away before selling/scuttling a ship.