Curse of the Crimson Throne
Those noble families that lived in Korvosa prior to the Cousins’ War (and who remained within the city after its conclusion) became the Dock Families. As the settlement teetered on the edge of bankruptcy, it leased the maintenance of its docks to the noble houses. These houses divided among themselves the piers and wharfs of the settlement. Each family was assigned at least one pier or wharf, and that family became responsible for maintenance, applying Korvosa’s docking fee to any ship that berthed there, unloading and loading the cargo of ships, and providing reasonable amounts of protection to both the structure and the ships tied to it.
Initially, this arrangement nearly broke several noble houses, until they followed the lead of House Jeggare and applied a berthing fee in addition to the settlement’s own tax. Within a month, the piers of the city had a wide range of berthing costs, which changed at the whims of the controlling family. Trade dropped off sharply, but the nobles quickly realized their folly and set up a specific fee structure based on the size of the pier and the docking ship.
Today, the captain of a ship berthing in Korvosa for the first time can gain a rough estimate of berthing fees by asking any other ship he passes on his approach. A neutral captain likely gives these new bloods a relatively straight answer, while a captain employed by or belonging to one of the houses does his best to convince the newcomer to berth at one of his house’s piers. This practice is known as “pier piling.”