While shipyards build ships and shipping companies operate (and usually own) ships, who examines the designs that the yards build off and ensure that the shipping lines operate safe equipment?
The answer to that is the Ship Classification Society. As an organization, they maintain the technical standards for the construction and operation of space ships, working in concert with builders, operators, and the technical requirements as defined by law. As a rule, classification societies do not comment on a ship’s fitness for purpose or actual spaceworthyness but instead certify compliance with the legal requirements. This means that they are wholly dependant on the existence of adequate standards: poorly defined standards can make an official classification practically useless.
The counterbalance to this is that an acceptable certificate of classification is a virtual requirement for insurance or to be able to take on contracts. There are few clients who will have their property shipped on an uninsured or poorly classified vessel! In many cases, presenting a verified copy of their certification is a requirement to dock at most commercial spaceports. Waivers are of course available (especially for shipyards, as they often take in deficient ships to be made right), but are granted at the discretion of the PortMaster. Especially questionable ships may be refused docking rights entirely.
Classification societies often work hand in hand with ship registries. Different states have different requirements for registering ships under their transponder, and what may be acceptable for one would be grounds for immediate denial with another. And incomplete information (as seen above) can lead to far bigger problems…
deWulf – Fenris
EisenRucke Verification (ERV) – THE name in deWulf classification societies. Originally a branch of the bank’s lending department, ERV quickly graduated to being a major department all on its own. As it traditionally operates at arm’s length from the rest of EisenRucke, it has its own board and corporate charter. A little conservative, but extremely well thought of.
ThaarVald Registry of Shipping (TVRS) – Originally a competitor to EisenRucke, ThaarVald now works together with ERV to help set common standards for spacefaring vessels. They were the originators of the 7.0 AS requirement for basic energy shielding for all commercial freighters. Compared to ERV they’re more willing to examine new technology and applications, but they still require demonstrations and testing before they sign off on new technologies
Kresy Inspection Group (KIG) – The third classification society of record for the deWulf. Primarily handles large private vessels, but does do some commercial work. Not considered to be at the same level as ERV or TharrVald, but still respectable. Rarely pushes improvements to standards or does any groundbreaking work.
deWulf – Falke
Falke Permanent Assurance (FPA) – A bare bones ship classification society. Using a loophole (now closed), the planetary government of Falke, in conjunction with FPA, was able to set themselves up as a ship registrar of convenience. This allowed them to issue their own design standards that are best described as “sufficient”, but most spacehands would use more colourful phrasing. FPA will review and class almost any hull, but using their classing as a backup for insurance can be challenging (especially on the low end of the classification scale).
Their rating is honest (usually), but the right contributions can result in a ship being graded up or down. Crewing a ship with FPA certification is almost always difficult. Captains often choose between paying a premium for crew balking at serving on a deathtrap, or being forced to take on clearly substandard crew.
deWulf – Sintilla
State Classification Services – A newly-freed corporation, formerly the Sintillan National Classification Board. Previously a part of the government of Sintilla. Amalgamated from several other pre-space services back from the Imperial era when they dealt with ships and aircraft. Bureaucracy is fairly rigid, but have a good reputation for correctness.
Kingdom of Ibiza
Mendoza of Corona – Mendoza is an oddity in the classification industry. Unlike others, Mendoza also offers insurance in addition to their inspection and certification services. While this makes for (on average) cheaper coverage, it also means that their insurance policies are very tightly defined, with loopholes and restrictions for the unwary. You pay less for your coverage, but you only get EXACTLY what you pay for.
Toboso Certification Register – Ibizans are, generally, a laid back and relaxed society. Toboso is where it seems like everyone who doesn’t fit that mold ends up. The service is sharp, blunt, and impeccable. Working through Toboso’s business process is an ordeal at the best of times, but they stand by their certifications no matter what may come. More than once a ship’s crew has been saved by the unrelenting defense put up by Toboso’s own regulatory process.
Krak University States
Shipping Registrar’s Office – Part of the Department of Business (College of Administration). Rigorous X-Y-Z compliance processes, solid documentation and support. A common classification society for research and experimental ships. VERY good confidentiality policies. Some people find the bureaucracy frustratingly opaque. Graduates of institutes of higher learning find it comforting, if a bit stress inducing.