In a recent game of Puerto Rico, I had the following situation. It was shipping time, and I had some corn and some indigo. There already was a ship half full of corn and an empty ship, too. My question is:

Did I have to ship the corn? Or could I choose to send indigo on the empty ship instead?

2 Answers 2


Under page 6 of the rules explains all the rules for the Captain phase. Starting with the captain, each player in turn chooses a good that they can ship, and ships all goods of that kind or the the most that they can if there are not enough ship spaces available. Therefore:

  • If the corn boat wasn't full, you can choose to ship all the corn you own that would fit in the remaining spaces.
  • If neither of the remaining boats have any indigo on them, you can choose an empty boat to ship all the indigo that you own (you must choose the largest ship possible if you have more goods than will fit in the remaining empty boats).

Loading/shipping rules: When shipping, players must follow these rules:

  • Each cargo ship will carry goods on only one kind.

  • Players may not load goods on a cargo ship if goods of that same kind are on one of the other two cargo ships.

  • Players may not load goods on a full ship.

  • On a player's turn, he must load goods if he can. However, he may only load one kind of goods.

  • When a players loads good of a kind, he must load as many of that kind as he can. A player cannot hold back goods where there is space on a cargo ship carrying the kind of goods he has. If a player has a kind of goods that can be loaded on several empty ships, he must choose the ship where he can load the most goods, leaving none behind, if possible.

  • If a player has several kinds of goods that he can load, he may choose freely, which goods to load. He need not choose the goods that would allow him to load the most barrels.

  • quote: "you must choose the largest ship possible if you have more goods than will fit in the remaining empty boats" why? maybe you want the smallest ship for some reason??
    – gbianchi
    Nov 22, 2012 at 0:44
  • 1
    @gbianchi, I confess, my group have been playing this rule wrong. It is the second to last rule listed above (just above the bold)
    – user1873
    Nov 22, 2012 at 0:56
  • wow, we played bad it also.. And I have to check the rules on Board Game arena and BrettspielWelt, since I don't think there are good there (or Maybe it never happen??). add the clarification on the side note of the rules: "She chooses the sugar and loads her 6 sugar barrels on the 7 space ship (she may not choose the 5 space ship as she could not load all 6 sugar)"
    – gbianchi
    Nov 22, 2012 at 1:02
  • @gbianchi, I confess that this rule has made a difference in some of my early games. I used to ship 4 corn on a small ship leaving 1 left over to ship on a Wharf (scoring 2 Harbor bonus VP instead of 1)
    – user1873
    Nov 22, 2012 at 1:54

Keep in mind that shipping takes place in several turns, going around the table starting with the player that chose Captain. On your turn, you must load a good if you are able. This means that you could choose to load all your indigo on the empty ship (provided that the third ship is not already carrying indigo--there can be only one ship carrying each kind of good), or you could load as much of your corn as you can onto the half-full corn ship. On your next turn, once each other player has had an opportunity to load, you must load the other good, if possible. Only once all allowable loading has finished and all players have passed does the Captain phase end.

If, for some reason, you wanted to not ship the corn, you would have to ship the indigo and hope that another player filled up the corn ship on their next opportunity. This happens more frequently when you have an expensive good like coffee or tobacco that you are hoping to trade rather than ship.

A couple points, summarized from the rulebook (p. 6)

  • Each ship can only hold one kind of good.
  • There can be only one ship of each kind.
  • On your turn, if you have any loadable goods (with a legal space on any ship) you must choose one of those goods and load as much of it as possible. However, you are under no obligation to make the choice that will load the most barrels.
  • If you have a choice of multiple empty ships, and enough of the good you are shipping to more than fill up the smallest, you must choose a ship that is large enough to load all the goods, if you can, or the largest empty ship otherwise.
  • You are not obligated to use a wharf to ship if you happen to own one. (p. 9)

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