Shipping Containers

What Is CBM? – Learn How to Calculate CBM for Sea & Air Transport

CBM Meaning
The full form of CBM is Cubic Meters. It is one of the most predominantly used units of measurement of cargo transports globally. CBM measures the volume of the shipment being sent by air freight or ocean freight, which ultimately decides the freight cost of the shipment. CBM measurement is a vital process of transporting shipments and air cargo since the overall transportation cost depends heavily on it.

Determining the right container size for your consignment helps you move your goods and manage your freight costs more effectively. For this, it’s pertinent to know how many CBM you can store in a container.

How to calculate CBM in Shipping?
Calculating the CBM for your product is very easy. Just pack it neatly into a cubical/cuboidal box to map the dimensions accurately. Once done, measure the box’s length, width and height in meters. If you have taken measurements in a unit other than meters, it’s advisable to convert it first and then proceed to calculate the CBM. When you have all the three measurements, multiply them and you’ll get the CBM value of your package.

The formula to calculate CBM would go as follows:-

Formula to calculate CBM in shipping

The calculation of CBM with this formula only takes into account the dimensions or volume of your shipment. But what if the package you want to ship is too light or too heavy. Shipping companies use the concept of CBM Chargeable Weight which also factors in the importance of weight of the shipment while arriving at the freight cost.

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How do you calculate CBM chargeable weight?
While shipping goods, it often happens that a relatively light package takes up much more space than a heavier yet a smaller one. Hence, if the shipping company levies the charges on both the packages based on their actual weight, the bigger yet lighter package would not be profitable to ship, since it occupies more space and weighs little.

To be able to solve this problem, companies use the concept of CBM chargeable weight. To understand chargeable weight, we first have to understand the following terms:

Actual Weight: Actual weight is the gross weight of the package that is to be shipped.

Dimensional/ Volumetric Weight: Once the CBM value of the package is known, multiply it with the Dimensional Weight Factor, or “DIM factor” based on the mode of transportation, to get the Dimensional or Volumetric Weight of the package.

The highest value between the two is taken into account by the company to charge the shipment. This method is known as the chargeable weight.

DIM Factors for different modes of Shipping
Ocean Freight : 1:1000
Air Freight : 1:6000
Express Freight/Courier : 1:5000
Truck LTL: 1:3000

How to calculate CBM for Ocean Freight LCL Shipments?
Ocean freight shipping companies have prioritised the space taken up by an LCL shipment in a container over the weight of the shipment. For calculating CBM for LCL shipments sent via ocean freight, the estimation factor for calculating the volumetric weight is generally 1:1000 — one cubic meter is equal to about 1000 kilograms.

Example of Ocean Freight cost calculation using CBM
Assume that the international freight forwarders has given you a quote of $15 per CBM or ton. And the DIM factor which is generally used for sea freight as 1:1000. There are two different situations which can arise, both of them have been explained below:-

If the dimensions of a package are 5m length, 5m height, and 5m width while its weight is 500kgs. And the freight forwarder has given you a quote of $15 per CBM or per 1000KG (As per the DIM factor). CBM = 555 = 125 CBM
Since the weight is less than 1 ton and CBM is greater than weight of the shipment hence it will be considered as the basis for calculation of freight cost. Freight Cost = 125*15 = $1875

If the dimensions of a package are 2m length, 1m height, and 3m width while its weight is 7 tons or 7000kgs. CBM = 213 = 6 CBM
Since weight of the shipment exceeds 1 ton and CBM value is less than the weight of the shipment hence weight will be considered as the basis for calculation of freight cost. Freight Cost = 7*15 = $105

How to calculate CBM for air shipment/ air freight?
In an air shipment the CBM calculation remains the same, but the freight is charged on gross weight or volume weight (after multiplying CBM by DIM factor) — whichever is higher. The DIM factor generally used in Air freight is 1:6000, or divide 1 CBM (if dimensions are measured in meters) by 0.006 to get volume weight in KGs.

Volume weight is important for calculating air freight, as lighter shipments consuming more space cannot be charged a lower amount as compared to someone who is sending a heavier shipment. Both actual weight and volume weight when taken into account help in accurate pricing for air shipments.

For example, If the dimensions of a package are 2m length, 2m height, and 2m width while its gross weight is 500kgs. And the freight forwarder has given you a quote of $1.5 per Volume weight or Gross weight whichever is higher. CBM = 222 = 8 CBM Volume weight for an air cargo = 8/0.006 = 1333.33 KGs

Volume Weight > Gross Weight, hence volume weight will be considered for calculating air freight cost, i.e 1.5*1333 = $1999.5

Types of containers and their CBMs
Generally, one needs to calculate the CBM of the consignment as well as the container. Standard containers are generally available in 3 sizes- 20ft, 40ft, and 45ft and the dimensions for the variants are as follows:

20ft Container CBM
20′ Dry Container : 33.0 cbm (Dimensions l:5919 mm, w:2340 mm, h:2380 mm, Weight: 1900 kg)
20′ Reefer Container : 27.5 cbm (Dimensions l:5428 mm, w:2266 mm, h:2240 mm)
20′ Open Top Container : 31.6 cbm (Dimensions l:5919 mm, w:2340 mm, h:2286 mm)
20′ Flat Rack Container : (Dimensions l:5662 mm, w:2438 mm, h:2327 mm)
20′ Collapsable Flat Rack Container : (Dimensions l:5946 mm, w:2126 mm, h:2233 mm)
20′ Open Side/Open Top Container : 31.0 cbm (Dimensions l:5928 mm, w:2318 mm, h:2259 mm)
40 ft Container CBM
40′ Dry Container : Dimensions : 67.3 cbm (Dimensions l:12045 mm, w:2309 mm, h:2379 mm)
40′ High Cube Dry Container : 76.0 cbm (Dimensions l:12056 mm, w:2347 mm, h:2690 mm)
40′ Reefer Container : 54.9 cbm (Dimensions l:11207 mm, w:2246 mm, h:2183 mm)
40′ High Cube Reefer Container : 66.9 cbm (Dimensions l:11628 mm, w:2294 mm, h:2509 mm)
40′ Open Top Container : 64.0 cbm (Dimensions l:12043 mm, w:2340 mm, h:2272 mm)
40′ Flat Rack Container : (Dimensions l:12080 mm, w:2438 mm, h:2103 mm)
40′ Collapsable Flat Rack Container : (Dimensions l:12080 mm, w:2126 mm, h:2043 mm)
45 ft Container CBM
45′ High Cube Dry Container : 85.7 cbm (Dimensions l:13582 mm, w:2347 mm, h:2690 mm)
45′ High Cube Reefer Container : 75.4 cbm (Dimensions l:13102 mm, w:2294 mm, h:2509 mm)
Also Read: Reefer Container | Meaning & The complete guide

Calculating CBM in Garments
The fashion industry is one of the most frequent users of both air as well as ocean freight routes to transport raw materials, equipment, and final products across the world. While exporting garments, companies pack them up in cartons that are smartly designed not to take up a lot of space, and easily stacked on top of each other.

Once the garments are packed in standard cartons, calculating their CBM becomes very easy. Just putting the accurate measures of all the dimensions in the below formula would give you the total CBM for your package.

Length of the carton (m) X Breadth of the carton (m) X Height of the carton (m) X Number of cartons in the package = Total CBM of the package

How do you convert KG to CBM?
Considering an assumption, kg (of mass) to CBM (of volume) – the SI derived unit for volume is the cubic meter.

How to convert KG to CBM

Note: Rounding errors may occur, so always check the results according to your apt figures.

How do you calculate CBM in inches?
1 inch is 0.0254 meters. So if the individual measurement of your package is in inches, make sure you multiply each one of them with 0.0254, and then proceed to calculate the CBM.

However, if you have already measured your package in terms of cubic inches, no need to go back and convert the individual dimensions again. Just use the formula given below to convert cubic inches to cubic meters.

How do you calculate CBM in inches

How many CBM in a pallet?
Pallets are the small wooden platforms upon which packages are stacked up inside the containers so that the goods suffer from no damage during their movement.

How many CBM in a pallet

Also Read:

FCL and LCL | Meaning & Difference
Container Yard (CY) | A guide to International Shipping
CFS Container Freight Station | Meaning, Role & Functions
Demurrage – Meaning & Charges in Shipping
TEU | Twenty-foot equivalent unit | Meaning & The complete guide to shipping

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