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What Is CBM in Shipping & How to Calculate It?

You often hear the term CBM used in the business of moving goods from one country to another by air, sea or land. CBM, short for “cubic meter,” is a widely used unit of measurement in shipping that determines what you pay for shipping.

In this article, we’ve put together everything you need to know about CBM so that you can accurately measure your cargo and determine your shipping costs. Read on to learn:

What is CBM in shipping?

CBM, an abbreviation of Cubic Meters, is one of the most commonly used units of measurement of the volume of shipment, globally.

This measurement is calculated by multiplying the width, height and length together of the shipment.

It determines how much space your cargo will take up on a ship, aircraft or truck, which in turn will decide how much it will cost to transport.

CBM is used for all three modes of shipping methods including air, sea, and road.

Conversion rate from CBM into Kg

The conversion rate depends on shipping method

By air: 1 CBM = 167 Kg

By road: 1 CBM = 333 Kg

By sea: 1 CBM = 1000 Kg(In most cases)  

several storage containers stacked on top of each other

CBM Meaning in Shipping Terms

CBM is an abbreviation for Cubic Meters, and it is the most generally used measurement unit for the volume of shipments all over the globe.

CMB or Cubic Meter is that unit through which we can measure the volume of the entire cargo. In simple words, we can define CBM as the metric volume unit, which clarifies how much space the package will take.

How to calculate CBM for sea shipment?

For LCL ocean freight 

Suppose you send LCL goods by sea. (LCL is a way of moving medium quantities of goods in shared containers).

Shipping companies collect freight charges under CBM, mainly for LCL cargoes, provided they weigh less than one ton (1000 kg).

If the cargo weighs more than one ton, the freight will be charged by weight.

Example 1:

Package dimensions: 3M x 3M x 3M

CBM: 3 x 3 x 3 = 27m³

DIM factor: 1:1000

Gross weight: 300 kg (0.3 ton)

Freight rate: $40 per CBM/ton

Since volume (CBM) is greater than actual weight, freight will be charged on the basis of CBM. So, freight cost: 40 x 27 = $1080

Example 2 :

Package dimensions: 2 m x 2 m x 1 m

CBM: 2 x 2 x 1 = 4 m³

DIM factor: 1:1000

Gross weight: 6000 kg (6 ton)

Freight rate: $40 per CBM/ton

Since gross weight is greater than volume, freight will be charged on the basis of gross weight. So, freight cost: 40 x 6 = $240

How to calculate CBM for sea shipment?

In an air shipment, the CBM calculation remains the same, but the freight is charged on actual weight or volumetric weight (after multiplying CBM by the DIM factor) — whichever is higher. The DIM factor generally used in Air freight is 1:6000 i.e. one cubic meter is equal to about 6000 kilograms.

Example 1:

Freight rate: $200 per CBM/ton

Package dimensions: 150 cm X 100 cm X 100 cm

Gross weight: 150 kg (0.15 ton)

Dimensional weight: 150 x 100 x 100 / 6,000 = 250 kg (0.25 ton)

Chargeable weight is dimensional weight (250 kg), which is greater than gross weight (150 kg). So, freight cost: 0.25 x 200 = $50

Example 2:

Freight rate: $200 per CBM/ton

Package dimensions: 60 cm X 80 cm X 60 cm

Gross weight: 800 kg (0.8 ton)

Dimensional weight: 60 x 80 x 60 / 6,000 = 48 kg (0.048 ton)

Chargeable weight is gross weight (800 kg), which is greater than dimensional weight (48 kg). So, freight cost: 0.8 x 200 = $160

1 CBM to kg in air freight

Calculating CBM for air cargo is different from sea shipment. The standard formula used is length (cm) x width (cm) x height (cm) ÷ 6000 = volume weight (KG)/1 CBM ≈ 166.6666 KG.

Any air freight calculations will use this transformation, so please note the following rules of thumb:

167 kg = 1 CBM

1 CBM to kg in sea freight

For seaborne pricing, one ton or 1000 kg is equivalent to 1 CBM.

This makes it quite simple to calculate the CBM of the LCL cargo.

For quick reference, here is a handy chart that converts kg to CBM for sea freight:

1 kg = 0.001 CBM

10 kg = 0.01 CBM

50 kg = 0.05 CBM

100 kg = 0.1 CBM

200 kg = 0.2 CBM

500 kg = 0.5 CBM

1000 kg = 1 CBM

red steel storage container with the word LOGISTICS printed at the side

CBM for container types

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 : 33.2 CBM (Dimensions L:5.9m, W:2.3m, H:2.3m, Payload:28130 kg)
20′ Reefer Container : 28.1 CBM (Dimensions L:5.4m, W:2.3m, H:2.1m, Payload:29140 kg)
20′ Open Top Container : 32.5 CBM (Dimensions L:5.9m, W:2.3m, H:2.3m, Payload:30050 kg)
20′ Open Top HC Container : 36.8 CBM (Dimensions L:5.9m, W:2.3m, H:2.6m, Payload:27970 kg)

20ft containerCBMLengthWidthHeightPayload
20' Dry33.2m³5.9m2.3m2.3m28130kg
20′ Reefer 28.1m³5.4m2.3m2.1m29140kg
20′ Open Top32.5m³5.9m2.3m2.3m30050kg
20′ Open Top HC36.8m³5.9m2.3m2.6m27970kg

40ft container CBM

40′ Dry Container : 67.7 CBM (Dimensions L:12m, W:2.4m, H:2.4m, Payload:28750 kg)
40′ Reefer HC Container : 67.7 CBM (Dimensions L:11.6m, W:2.3m, H:2.4m, Payload:29580 kg)
40′ Open Top Container : 66.8 CBM (Dimensions L:12m, W:2.3m, H:2.4m, Payload:28450 kg)
40′ Dry HC Container : 76.3 CBM (Dimensions L:12m, W:2.3m, H:2.7m, Payload:28600 kg)

40ft containerCBMLengthWidthHeightPayload
40' Dry67.7m³ 12m2.4m2.4m28750kg
40′ Reefer67.7m³11.6m2.3m2.4m29580kg
40′ Open Top66.8m³12m2.3m2.4m28450kg
40′ Open Top HC 76.3m³12m2.3m2.7m28600kg

40ft high cube container CBM 

40′ Standard High Cube Container : 76.3 CBM (Dimensions L:12m, W:2.4m, H:2.7m, Payload:28600 kg)

45ft high cube container CBM 

45′ Standard HC Container : 86 CBM (Dimensions L:13.5m, W:2.3m, H:2.7m, Payload:27700 kg)

Note: HC means High Cube; Payload is the maximum cargo weight a container can hold.

Why Choose Airsupply to arrange your Air/Sea shipment?

Airsupply established at 2014 year, we specialize in logistics solution from China to Europe/ USA/Mexico/Australia/Asia over 10 years.

Competitive rates with allotment from HKG/SZX/CAN/PVG/PEK/XMN/TAO/CGO/CTU and reliable service are the basics of our business.

We promise to provide economic, high quality service and to remain response to your need at all time. And it will be my honor to be your partner in China.

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