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What does CBM Mean?

You often hear the term CBM used in the business of shipping goods from one country to another via international air freight, international sea freight, or international land freight. CBM, short for “cubic meter,” is a unit of measurement widely used in shipping and determines how much you pay for shipping.

What does CBM mean? How to calculate shipping costs using CBM

What is CBM?

Cubic meters or CBM is a measurement of cargo volume. It determines how much space your goods will take up on a ship, plane, or truck, which in turn determines shipping costs.

How do you calculate CBM?

Length x Width x Height = CBM
This is the formula used to measure cargo volume in CBM (m³). For example, you have a cardboard box that is 2 meters long, 2 meters wide, and 2 meters high. Then, its volume is 2x2x2=8m³. If you have 10 identical cartons in a consignment, you simply multiply the CBM by the total number of cartons to get the total volume – 8×10=80m³. If cartons are different sizes, use the same formula to calculate the CBM for each carton and then add the totals.

What are dimensional weight and billable weight?

In shipping, volume (CBM) is a way of calculating shipping costs. Another is weight. Traditionally, it is said that the weight of a cargo determines its shipping cost. But what if the cargo is very light but very bulky (for example, a box of Styrofoam cups or a bale of cotton)? Such a shipment would take up more space than shipping small steel items. But if the freight is charged based on light weight, it is only in name. This is known as the concept of dimensional or dimensional weight and billable weight.

Gross Weight: This is the actual weight of your shipment, including any packaging, cushioning and pallets.

Volumetric weight/volumetric weight: Converting the volume of cargo into its weight equivalent (CBMtokg) is called volumetric weight or volumetric weight. Depending on the freight mode (air, sea, road) and carrier, dimensional weight can be calculated using any of the following formulas:

  1. CBMxDIM coefficient = volumetric weight
  2. Length (cm) x width (cm) x height (cm) x quantity/DIM coefficient = volume weight

Quantity is the number of packages that make up a single shipment. The DIM factor or volumetric weight factor varies by freight mode (sea, air, express, truck) and carrier. The generally accepted DIM factors are:

  1. Sea transportation – 1:1,000 (1m³=1,000kg or 1 ton)
  2. Air freight – 1:6,000 (1m³=6,000kg or 6 tons). But when we use the first formula (CBMxDIMFactor=DimensionalWeight), the DIM factor is 1:167, where 1m³=167kg.
  3. Express/express freight – 1:5,000 (1m³=5,000kg or 5 tons)
  4. Road freight (less than truck or LTL) – 1:3,000 (1m³=3,000kg or 3 tons.

Note: Although the DIM factors mentioned here are widely accepted, they can still vary by freight method, service provider and region, so please check what applies to your situation.

Chargeable Weight: Once you have your gross weight and dimensional weight, your freight service provider will charge you based on the greater of the two. This is called the billable weight. If the gross weight is greater than the dimensional weight, the former will be charged. But if the dimensional weight is greater, that’s the billable weight.

How to calculate shipping costs using CBM

How to calculate shipping costs using CBM

LCL shipping

    Let’s say you send a Less Than Container Load (LCL) shipment via ocean freight. (LCL shipping is a method of transporting medium quantities of goods in shared containers). Shipping lines charge freight based on CBM, mainly for LCL cargoes, provided they weigh less than one ton (1,000 kilograms). If the shipment weighs more than one ton, shipping charges are based on weight.

    Example 1:
    Packing size: 4mx4mx4m
    CBM: 4x4x4=64m³
    Dimming coefficient: 1:1,000
    Gross weight: 200 kg (0.2 tons)
    Freight: USD 50/ton per cubic meter
    Since the volume (CBM) is greater than the actual weight, the shipping fee will be calculated as CBM. Therefore, shipping cost: 50×64=$3,200

    Example 2:
    Packing size: 2mx2mx1m
    CBM: 2x2x1=4m³
    Dimming coefficient: 1:1,000
    Gross weight: 5,500 kg (5.5 tons)
    Freight: USD 50/ton per cubic meter
    Since gross weight is greater than volume, freight will be charged based on gross weight. Therefore, shipping cost: 50×5.5=$275

    Air Freight

    Here, we use the second formula to calculate volumetric weight – length (cm) x width (cm) x height (cm) / DIM factor – and a DIM factor of 1:6,000 to calculate shipping costs.

    Example 1:
    Freight: USD 150/ton per cubic meter
    Packing size: 150cmX100cmX100cm
    Gross weight: 200 kg (0.2 tons)
    Volume weight: 150x100x100/6,000=250 kg (0.25 tons)
    The billable weight is the volumetric weight (250 kg), which is greater than the gross weight (200 kg). Therefore, shipping cost: 0.25×150=$37.50

    Example 2:
    Freight: USD 150/ton per cubic meter
    Packing size: 50cmX80cmX60cm
    Gross weight: 1,200 kg (1.2 tons)
    Volume weight: 50x80x60/6,000=40 kg (0.04 tons)
    The billable weight is the gross weight (1,200 kg), which is greater than the dimensional weight (40 kg). Therefore, shipping cost: 1.2×150=$180

    Rail Freight

    This calculation is based on the formula length (cm) x width (cm) x height (cm)/dimension weight DIM factor, using a DIM factor of 1:3,000.
    Freight: USD 60/ton per cubic meter
    Packing size: 150cmx80cmx60cm
    Volume weight: 150x80x60/3,000=240 kg (0.24 tons)
    Gross weight: 175 kg (0.175 tons)
    If the dimensional weight (240 kg) is greater than the gross weight (175 kg), the billable weight will be charged. Therefore, shipping cost: 0.24×60=15 USD
    NOTE: The shipping charges mentioned in the above examples are representative. For actual and current rates, please contact your China freight forwarder or get an instant quote on Basenton Logistics.

    How many CBMs are in a container?

    Since many of us use containers to transport our goods, it is important to know how much CBM a standard 20-foot, 40-foot, and 45-foot container can hold:
    Note: HC stands for High Cube; payload is the maximum cargo weight that the container can hold.

    Learn more:

    How much CBM is in a pallet?
    Like containers, pallets—flat structures used to support and secure cargo—come in standard sizes. The most common are 48”x40”, 42”x42” and 48”x48” 1 pallet. One of the standard pallets holds 1.26m³.

    How do you calculate CBM for irregular shaped packages?
    All dimensions and calculations mentioned so far in this article apply to packages with regular shapes, such as cubes or cuboids. A carton is a regular-shaped package whose formula is LengthxWidthxHeight=CBM. But what if your package is irregularly shaped?

    How do you measure its CBM?
    Cylindrical packaging: such as rolled carpet or tubes. Hold the package upright and measure its height and radius (half the diameter). Measurements should be in meters. Now use the formula πxr²xh=CBM, where
    A. π is the symbol of pi, which is the ratio of the circumference to the diameter, usually equal to 3.14
    B, r is the radius
    C, h is height (equal to length)

    Irregular packaging: Measure the CBM of this type of packaging, measuring its longest length, longest width and longest height. Then use the formula Length(max)xWidth(max)xHeight(max)=CBM.
    Measure and convert
    Since CBM is calculated in meters, you can convert cargo measurements to meters:

    1. Feet to meters: 1 foot equals 0.3048 meters, so multiply the foot value by 0.3048
    2. Inches to meters: 1 inch is equal to 0.0254 meters, so multiply by 0.0254
    3. Centimeter to meter: 1 centimeter is equal to 0.01 meter, so multiply by 0.01

    How does CBM affect shipping costs?

    When we say freight volume, or CBM, determines your freight charges, we’re not just talking about the carrier’s cost to transport your shipment. When you receive a shipping quote, it includes many other fees and surcharges, all or part of which may also be calculated on a CBM basis. These include:

    1. Terminal handling charges: These charges are related to the use of equipment and property owned by the origin and destination terminals and the use of the labor they provide to load, unload, and transport cargo.
    2. Inland transportation charges: These are the charges associated with the transportation of goods from an inland container yard/container freight station to the loading port or vice versa.
    3. Fuel Adjustment Factor (BAF): Also known as the fuel adjustment factor, this is an additional fee levied by the carrier in response to fluctuations in fuel prices.
    4. Currency Adjustment Factor (CAF): This is a surcharge levied by the carrier to compensate for fluctuations in currency exchange rates relative to the base exchange rate.
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