Keel Laying Edit
Most Royal Naval Service vessels are built in one of the major shipyards in the Ikeopo System. Capital Ships are constructed at the Interstellar Transport System's Morrigan Fleetyards in high orbit above Sivad's sole moon. Though modular construction techniques mean that there is seldom an actual "keel" to "lay", a ceremony is generally carried out when the first major structural member is put down. A dignitary, such as a member of the Council of Equals or Royal Family, will give a brief speech, and then mark the keel by affixing a name plaque or his or her initials. The workmen then move the keel into position and announce that "the keel has been truly and fairly laid." The keel laying ceremony is run by the shipyard, with almost no naval involvement.
Christening and Launching Edit
Christening is the second major ceremony in the life of a ship, and is the point at which the vessel is officially named, having previously been referred to by a hull number. The "launching" generally consists of releasing the scaffolding which hold the ship, and allowing it to float free in space, though it may still be within the docking bay of a shipyard or naval base.
The christening is jointly run by the Navy and the shipyard. It usually consists of the playing of the national anthem (Hail, Sivadia!), a speech by a dignitary, and an invocation by a RNS chaplain. The ship's "sponsor", that is, the woman who will christen it, is introduced, and the bugler or bosun sounds "Attention." At the height of the ceremony, the sponsor launches a tethered bottle of champagne at the ship's bow, and says, "In the name of the Kingdom of Sivad, I christen thee [name]. May God bless her and all who sail on her." The ship is then launched.
Between Christening and Commissioning, the vessel does not bear a commissioning pennant or any of the distinguishing marks of a warship. Instead, it flies the house flag of the constructing shipyard and the national ensign. It also does not gain the 'HMS' desgination until commissioned, instead using only its name.
Commissioning is the moment at which the vessel, having passed sea trials, is officially taken into the service of the Crown, and becomes entitled to the distinction, "His Majesty's Ship." The ceremony has certain basic elements, but can be more or less elaborate, depending on the size of the ship, its assignments, and the desires of the Admiralty and Captain.
The ceremony usually takes place privately in a Royal Navy spacedock. A band is generally present, and the entire ship's company, officers and specialists, mustered. Dignitaries, if any, arrive, and are given musical honours, but not gun salutes, since the ship is not yet entitled to fire them. There is generally an invocation, and the commissioning party, which usually includes the ship's sponsor, will be introduced. The captain then reads the commissioning directive, and concludes with, "In accordance with this authority, I hereby place His Majesty's Ship [Name] in commission ." The band will then play the national anthem, and the commissioning pennant and navy ensign will be hoisted.
After the directive is read and the flags hoisted, the prospective commissioning officer will read his orders and take command of the ship - known as "reading himself in." The First Lieutenant is then ordered to set the watch. The First Lieutenant responds, "Aye, Aye, sir (or ma'am)," salutes, and directs the navigator, "Set the watch, navigator," simultaneously handing him the long glass (telescope). After the first watch has been set, the order is given to "bring the ship to life', and the crew boards. The Captain will then ask the senior dignitary present for permission to break his flag over the ship, and when it is recieved, the flag will be hoisted. The band will play the appropriate ruffles and flourishes and music, and the ship will fire a gun salute. The ceremony then ends, usually with the presentation of gifts to the shipyard, sponsor, and other dignitaries.
Decomissioning is the end of the active operational life of a ship - though it is possible for vessels to be "mothballed" and put in reserves for later recommissioning.
The ceremony generally begins with the playing of the national anthem. After reading the decommissioning order, the First Lieutenant will hear reports from the various departments, using ancient formulae.
The second lieutenant: "All secure about the decks. The running lights have been extinguished, the cannonballs have been removed and the cannon has been spiked." The engineer: "The shafts have been locked. All valves closed and the spacechest secured. The tiller has been locked amidships." The purser: "All rations have been commuted and the galley fires doused." The First Lieutenant will then inform the captain that the ship is ready for decomissioning. The dignitaries, if present, will be piped off ship with appropriate honours, and then the ship's company will follow, on the order to "lay ashore." The captain will then order the First Lieutenant to sound eight bells and haul down the colours. The ensign and commissioning pennant will be hauled down, and then the order will be given to "secure the watch." The watchkeeping cycle ends and the ship is decomissioned. The commissioning pennant is generally presented to the ship's last commanding officer, and the ensign to the longest serving officer.