At Spin Two Swords
The procedure for processing wrecks is contingent upon whether or not the characters want to do a salvage run legally or outside the law.
Legally, a character reports a salvage to the local starport. The Starport has the ship codes for all the ships operating in their system. Generally, this means that they can also find out who owns the ship. They then attempt to contact the owner about what they want to do with the junk that’s cluttering up the sky. At that point, the owner can claim it, but often it would cost more to run a salvage operation than to abandon the property. In the latter case, the party reporting the wreckage get full salvage rights.
All of this can be complicated. Sometimes a party will exaggerate the degree of wreckage. Sometimes the owner will cut a deal, wanting a percentage of the salvage operation (and will probably recommend a salvage yard in this case). Just as often as not, by the time anyone hears, one way or another, the reporting party is already out of the system.
Criminal salvage comes in many shapes and shades. Some of which is simply ignored because nobody wants a sky filled with rubbish, but on the other hand, banks tend to want their money and nobody’s going to make payments on a ship that no longer exists. Selling illegal ships generally means cutting them up for parts at a chop shop. It is, in general, not nearly as lucrative as it sounds, since it requires an amazingly complex network of people who cut the ship up illegally and who move the parts illegally. When all is said and done, a spacer can see about a hundredth off of illegal salvage than they might for legal salvage. Plus, if they get caught doing it, they may very well go to prison.
Subsector fleets keep a close eye on illegal salvage and those accused of running an illegal salvage operation. That being said, illegal salvage happens often, especially if the spacer can be sure that the space wreck in question won’t be “missed.”