Excuse me. What does God need with a starship?
– Captain James T. Kirk - Captain USS Enterprise - Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
When the Eleven Races arrived in the Echo Cluster, they found large amounts of the three basic minerals that they use to build starships: Tritanium, Duranium, and Molybdenum, along with the Neutronium that their engines use for fuel. As the Races colonized new planets, they used these minerals to build starbases and used them to build starships.
Starships carry colonists and supplies to new worlds, transport kilotons of minerals and mounds of money, defend bases and planets, and carry out the will of their Commanders. In addition to traveling between planets, ships can perform various missions and many have unique abilities.
In a starbase's space dock, each race can build from a list of starships; some are exclusive to the race, others are common among all races, and a few were even copied from other races. Each of these starships falls into one of two categories: Freighters or Warships.
A freighter is a starship which has no weapons and is designed for transporting cargo. It can be attacked by planets and warships, but it has no shields (the Dungeon Class Stargate, which may be available to the Cyborg in Campaign Games, is classified as a freighter, but it has shields) and cannot defend itself. A warship hull that was built with no weapons or fighter bays is considered to be a freighter, but it retains the weapon slots and the Federation can Super Refit them with weapons to convert them to warships.
Freighters and planets need to be protected, so warships may be armed with torpedo tubes, beams, and short-range fighters, depending on the design of the hull. Warships are built to battle ships and planets, where they can be damaged, lose crew, or be totally destroyed. When a combat has concluded, warships often need to be repaired, which may require a trip to a starbase.