What is CBM in international shipping and how to calculate it?

CBM in shipping is the amount of freight volume occupied by a shipment in an air or sea freight container. In this blog, learn more about how to calculate it.
CBM in shipping
Freight forwarders organize international shipments of goods on their client’s behalf, and prices are determined based on the amount and value of the goods to be sent. A generic freight calculator is used to calculate the amount payable for both ocean cargo and air freight, which meets international standards. The freight charge for a Less-than Container load (LCL) is decided based on the volume of goods, in which case the fee is calculated by CBM. CBM is one of the most commonly used volume metrics for air, ocean, and road transportation, used when measuring cargo or calculating costs.

What is CBM?

CBM or cubic meters is the freight volume of local or international cargo. CBM in shipping signifies a shipping container or cargo units’ volumetric capacity. The larger the CBM, the higher the number of products in the cargo, which means more goods can be sent. When dealing with international shipments, CBM is utilized as a volume-measuring unit. The volume of foreign exports may be measured in two ways – by weight and by volume. ‘CBM’ is the volume occupied by goods in a truck or a railway car, which is used to determine the cost of the shipment. It is also used by importers, exporters, and manufacturing organizations to determine the amount of freight1.

How does CBM affect shipping costs?

CBM measurement is critical in shipping cargo since it has a significant impact on overall transportation costs. It determines the freight cost of a shipment transported by air or ocean freight based on the volume of the package. While a package’s weight dictates its transportation cost, knowing the CBM rate is important in cases where the cargo is exceedingly light. Choosing the correct container size for your shipment allows you to move your goods more efficiently and control your freight costs.

What is CBM chargeable weight?

The chargeable weight is the weight used by the company to assess freight charges. A freight forwarder will compute dimensional or volumetric weight of your shipment and the gross or actual weight. Instead of deciding at random, your freight service provider selects the greater of the two.

How to calculate CBM in shipping?

Cargo may not necessarily be packaged in standard forms like a cube or a cuboid. It can come in a variety of sizes, depending on the type of goods. To determine the CBM of your cargo, you must first categorize it based on the form and size of your products. Below are some of the ways to calculate CBM for such packages2:

Regular packages

Cube and cuboid packaging are the most commonly used containers as they are widely accessible, simple to use, and a cost-effective option.

CBM = Height x width x length

Irregular packages

In unusual or extraordinary circumstances, you may be required to use unusual packaging for shipment purposes. Because these packages lack symmetrical dimensions, the traditional CBM formula is not applicable.

CBM = Longest height x longest width x longest length

Cylindrical packages

Cylindrical packages are valuable to certain traders that deal in unusual products. Oil dealers, for example, prefer cylindrical containers because they offer superior packing and shipping options.

CBM = π x r² x h (The value of π is generally taken as 3.14)

How do you calculate CBM chargeable weight?

Below are a few important terms to understand to calculate chargeable weight:
Actual Weight: The gross weight of the package to be sent is the actual weight.
Dimensional or volumetric weight: Once the CBM value of the package is determined, multiply it by the dimensional weight factor or ‘DIM factor’, as per the mode of transportation to obtain the package’s dimensional or volumetric weight3.

DIM factors for different shipping modes:

Truck LTL: 1:3000
Express Freight/Courier: 1:5000
Air Freight: 1:6000
Ocean Freight: 1:1000

In the end, whichever is higher accounts for the carrier’s chargeable weight.

How do you calculate CBM for air shipment?

In an air shipment, the CBM in shipping calculation stays the same, but the freight is based on gross weight or volume weight (after calculating the CBM by the DIM factor) – whichever is greater. The volume weight is important to calculate air freight since lighter shipments take up more room and cannot be charged less than someone delivering a bigger package. When both real and volume weight are included, appropriate pricing for air cargo is achieved4.

How to calculate CBM for ocean shipment?

Ocean freight companies prioritize the amount of space taken up in a container by an LCL shipment over the weight of the shipment.

CBM conversion to KG

The conversion rate is affected by the shipping method:
By sea: 1 CBM = 1000 Kg
By air: 1 CBM = 167 Kg
By road: 1 CBM = 333 Kg

Hassle-free international shipping with Amazon FBA

Shipping internationally can be a complex process, especially for exporters starting new operations. Safe and timely deliveries impact profitability, brand authority and customer loyalty. With its e-commerce exports program, Amazon enables Indian sellers and exporters with the entire export process including international logistics. With Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA), sellers can send their shipments to Amazon fulfillment centers. Amazon then handles storage, packaging and delivery on your behalf.

To support you for hassle-free logistics, Amazon has also launched SEND, enabling you to ship directly to international fulfillment centers at competitive prices. All you have to do is book, pay and track shipments without any hassles from India to the world.
Amazon FBA

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the full form of CBM?
The full form of CBM is Cubic based Meters.
How many CBM is a 40-foot container?
A 40-foot container (40 feet in length) can typically hold 55 to 58 CBM worth of goods. However, the exact CBM is determined by the type of goods and size of the boxes.
Published on December 30, 2022.


Sell across the world with Amazon Global Selling

Ready to start exporting from India?
Want to learn about Amazon Global Selling?
Disclaimer: Whilst Amazon Seller Services Private Limited ("Amazon") has used reasonable endeavours in compiling the information provided, Amazon provides no assurance as to its accuracy, completeness or usefulness or that such information is error-free. In certain cases, the blog is provided by a third-party seller and is made available on an "as-is" basis. Amazon hereby disclaims any and all liability and assumes no responsibility whatsoever for consequences resulting from use of such information. Information provided may be changed or updated at any time, without any prior notice. You agree to use the information, at your own risk and expressly waive any and all claims, rights of action and/or remedies (under law or otherwise) that you may have against Amazon arising out of or in connection with the use of such information. Any copying, redistribution or republication of the information, or any portion thereof, without prior written consent of Amazon is strictly prohibited.

*Map not to scale. The map has been used for design and representational purpose only, it does not depict the geographical boundaries of the country. These do not conform to the external boundaries of India recognized by the Survey of India.
Follow Amazon Global Selling on