Depending on what kinds of wares your station needs (Bulk, Energy, Container and/or Liquid), there are a range of ships designated as "Mine" and "Trade" available across the galaxy that are capable of delivering them. Similarly, there are a range of small and capital Fight ships that can be assigned to stations to help defend the station and their ships.

Despite their different designation on paper, Trade and Mine ships in practice are essentially interchangeable in their roles. It is therefore necessary to consider things a little before assigning them to a Manager to ensure they do what you intend. If you would like them to operate in their defined roles (trading vs. mining), this is achieved through equipping/removing suitable mining drones. Without mining drones, they will only trade; with mining drones they will only mine (unless the station is full and you un-assign and re-assign them - then they may begin to trade).

Trading ships assigned to Managers

Once a Trading ship's Captain is assigned to a Station Manager, the Captain will begin to try to complete trade offers that the Manager advertises (taking into consideration the Manager's "Trading operational range" setting & current budget). Take note of trade ship cargo type restrictions: it is pointless assigning a tradeship to the manager if it cannot transport any of the wares used/produced by the factory. Once you have a larger more self-sufficient supply chain it might only be necessary to supply the factory with a trader for its product type, as the inputs will be covered by the traders from other factories or directly by mining ships.

Teladi Vulture notes: Although classified as "Trade" ships, the default drone suggestions for Bulk and Liquid variants when placing an order for then at shipyards include mining drones, and the Bulk variant is equipped with Mining Lasers. Therefore, in line with the notes in the Introduction section above, that drone will need deselecting before purchase (or selling/transfer off afterwards) if you wish them to operate as a trading ship for Managers.

Mining ships assigned to Managers

Assigned Mining ships are a little different to assigned Trading Ships in that instead of following their Manager's "Trading operational range", they will harvest what their station needs in the closest possible zones to the station [within the same system]. This may mean travelling into hostile sectors or zones to gather resources for prolonged periods of time.

Where this behaviour is not desired, options include:

  1. Placing the station such that safer mining locations will be closer than hostile ones (not always possible/desirable).
  2. Not assigning the related Mine ship to the Manager, leaving supply to NPCs or manual trading and mining.
  3. Placing the station in a system where required materials are sold in various rare stations (spoiler link).
  4. An alternative to 1 through the HoL DLC is to place a Warehouse somewhere useful relative to the desired harvestable ware (s). Then assign miners, setup the Warehouse to need the ware(s), then use your traders to buy from it and sell to the station needing the ware (s).

The rationale behind the "Trading operational range" setting not applying to Mining ships is to ensure that production lines don't stall due to a lack of resources since every system has every harvestable resource in at least one zone (spoiler link).

Trading ships assigned to Architects

If you assign a trading ship to an Architect, the ship will attempt to purchase station construction materials needed by the Construction Vessel. Rebirth 4.0 changed things such that Architects now have an adjustable "Trading operation range" with a default setting of System.

Ships assigned to Defence Officer

Any fighter (S/M Fight ships) assigned to a station's DO will be used to patrol the local zone or escort medium Trade/Mine ships assigned to Managers. If you assign new medium Trade/Mine ships to the manager, you'll need to relocate escorting fighters back to the DO if you'd like the DO to share them out again. Given their fragility, you are likely to have to assign new fighters to the DO on a semi-regular basis, so beyond the early game you may prefer to use capital ships instead (sturdier and self-repairing).

Capital ships assigned to DOs will only go on patrol in the station's zone (any capital, even if they have Trade/Mine/Build designation). If you'd like combat-capital ships to escort Trade/Mine ships assigned to Managers, you'll need to do that manually. Ordering combat capital ships to patrol particular zones is another alternative.

An additional means of defending a station against hostile fighters is with combat drones, which can be replaced automatically via the Supply Options menu.