A freight forwarder performs the business of shipping and moving of the clients’ perishable and non-perishable goods internationally. There are different methods in which the prices are being calculated. IN this post, we show you Learn how to calculate CBM.

Freight Forwarders arrange international shipments of goods on behalf of their clients. The prices being calculated to depend on the quantity and value of the goods that need to be shipped. 

To get a price quote for your freight (in other words, shipping cost), as your freight forwarder, we would not just provide a cost without a formula or a calculator. The amount payable for both Sea shipping and Air freight is determined using a general freight calculator. It is an international standard calculator.

The freight charge is considered based on a full container load basis in the case of FCL. While for Less than Container Load, the freight charge is based on the volume of cargo, In which case (LCL), the charge is determined on the basis of CBM. 

We take 100% responsibility in ensuring that CBM is considerably affordable for our clients as their joy is our overall satisfaction. 

See 5 Reasons why you should consider our services

What is CBM? 

CBM simply means cubic meter. It is used to measure the freight volume of the shipment for domestic and international freight. 

CBM stands for “cubic based meters”. While working with international shipments, CBM is used as a unit for the measurement of volume. There are two ways to measure the volume of international shipments: by weight and by volume. CBM is the preferred unit to measure volume in most countries because not all goods are created equally and it’s easier to calculate pricing, base on cubic meters.

In other words, CBM is the amount of freight volume the shipment occupies in an air or sea freight container. The volume occupied by the cargo in a truck or a railway car can also be referred to as CBM (Cubic Meter). This measure is used to calculate the price of the cargo. 

It is also commonly used by importers, exporters and manufacturing companies to calculate the amount of freight necessary for their business operations.

calculate cbm

At what point is CBM calculation required?

Every time you ship cargo or send a courier with excess weight, you need to calculate CBM. 

Have you ever wondered why freight rates are based on actual weight and not just the volume of your shipment? 

In the transportation of goods from one place to another place, there is a standard that stipulates the minimum amount of space that has to be provided for goods containing a certain quantity in weight and volume. 

A common factor for these measurements is the “Cubic Meter”. 

This is the common unit used for the measurement of volume and weight. In order to calculate cube meters, we will be needing formula for calculating Cube Meters (CBM).

Calculating CBM isn’t that complicated and once you know how to do it, you’ll find life and business much simpler when dealing with freight transport.

Besides a CBM calculation which is used to determine freight rates, CBM calculation is also very important in calculating dimensional weight, and chargeable weight in transport classification.

How to Calculate cubic meters – CBM

CBM measurement is calculated by multiplying the width, height and length of the shipment, depending on the mode of calculation, e.g. metres, centimetres, inches, kg etc.

A cargo/shipment has to be above 1000 kgs to be treated on the basis of weight. By implication, this means that the weight originally should not exceed 1 ton.

So the Freight forwarders offer their charges based on which one is higher, either by ‘per CBM or per 1000kgs (1ton). 

The method of calculating the volume of cargo in Sea LCL (Less than Container Load) shipment depends on the Length (cm), the width (cm) and the Weight (cm).

Cubic Meter (CBM) is calculated by multiplying the length, width and height of packages, that is, L x W x H. (if in metres).

Let say we have the length of packages of goods as 2.5, width 1.6 and height 2.2. Calculating in inches, it is 2.5 x 1.6 x 3 = 12 CBM. 

If you have the measurement in inches or centimetre, Cubic Meter (CBM) is calculated by first converting in metres and then calculating the CBM. 

How To Convert Weight to CBM

Fomula for calculating Calculation

Length (centimeter) x Width (centimeter) x Height (centimeter) / 1,000,000 = Length meter x Width meter x Height meter = Cubic meter (m3).

e.g. 35 cm x 35 cm x 45 cm /1,000,000 = 0.055 cbm

Note: if the calculation is in meters, you do not divide by 1,000,000.

CFT Formula: Length” x Width” x Height” = x, divided by 1728 = Cubic feet (CFT), where x is the total determined from L x W x H.

Please note: CFT is also known as cubic feet or ft3, a unit measurement of volume, a cubic foot is a space occupied by a cube with 1-foot width, length and height.

The total weight of cargo should not exceed 1 ton. That means, if the cargo weight is above 1000kgs, the volume of cargo is treated on the basis of weight. 

How to calculate the volumetric weight of your shipment (as in Air Freight)

There are two main factors that affect the final cost of shipment. They are the weight and the volume occupied. The volumetric weight is therefore a way that airlines charge for space on their aircraft

If an item weighs less than the per kilogram rate that an airline would charge, it doesn’t mean you get away with carrying a heavy package at a cheap rate as volume-based charges might apply. 

It is pretty common that when sending oversized packages internationally by air freight, the overall weight of the shipment can be quite low compared to the dimensions. 

In such situations, it may be possible to save on international parcel shipping costs by using volumetric weight as a price calculation method instead of standard weight. 

International volumetric weights are calculated using the formula below: 

(length x width x height in centimeters) / 5000 = volumetric weight in kilograms.

Why measuring CBM is important in sea shipping.

This is one of the most asked questions when we are dealing with maritime trade. Almost every time the question pops up whereas they mostly deal in volume. We always tell customers how many cubic meters can fit into their vessel.

One singular reason for determining cubic metres(CBM) is that it helps you determine how to ship your cargo. 

This is why it is the first step you should take, and of course, the first question you are asked by your freight forwarder is the size of your consignment. 

Without providing this detail, your forwarder might not be able to determine how your cargo would be treated. 

How many CBM is 1kg?

Many customers have asked while seeking clarity for charges issued to them by forwarders. We have got to understand that the measurement in kg as related to CBM seems much easier for them to understand their costs. 


How many CBM in 20ft, 40ft, and 45ft containers?

20ft container is approximately 26-28 CBM

40ft container is approximately 55-58 CBM

40ft HQ container is approximately 60-68 CBM

45ft HQ container is approximately 78 CBM

How to convert kg to CBM (Sea freight & Airfreight)

CBM, although is the volume of your shipment, the volume may be used for some other purposes, which includes important international freight calculations for courier, air or sea. 

Below is the conversion of kg to CBM for sea freight easy calculation.

  1. 1 kg = 0.001 CBM.
  2. 10 kg = 0.01 CBM.
  3. 50 kg = 0.05 CBM.
  4. 100 kg = 0.1 CBM.
  5. 200 kg = 0.2 CBM.
  6. 500 kg = 0.5 CBM.
  7. 1000 kg = 1 CBM.

Air Cargo CBM calculation is however not the same as ocean freight. We calculate air cargo CBM using the standard formula below. 

Length (cm) x width (cm) x height (cm) ÷ 6000 = Volumentric weight (KG)/1 CBM ≈ 166.6666 KG. So therefore, 167kg = 1 CBM.

Wrap Up

As always, our over 20 years of running Freight Shipping and Customs Clearing Business in Nigeria has seen quite a good number of importers and exporters make values. We have helped a lot of them record possible successes in their businesses.

This post is for informational purposes, although we are open for a business discussion with you whenever you are ready or willing to import or export your items. Our years of experience in Freight Shipping and Customs Clearing has led our way up above peers and that is why we at Bowa-gate Global Limited have been able to identify what works and what does not in the interest of our growing customer base.

We are willing to take you through a whole new perspective.

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