How to Calculate CBM for a Sea Shipment

by Eric Bank; Updated September 26, 2017
Container ship on ocean

CBM stands for cubic meter, the standard size that international sea shippers use to calculate how much to charge for cargo that is less than a container load, or LCL. A CBM is defined as 1 meter high, wide and deep. You calculate it by multiplying the three dimensions of a box, crate or pallet in metric units. For example, a box that is 0.6 m high by 0.4 m wide by 1 m deep is 0.24 CBM. A CBM is approximately 35 cubic feet.

Weight vs. Volume

Shippers charge by volume for LCL freight. If your shipment takes up less volume than a full container load, you don't have to worry about its weight, up to a certain maximum. Very dense LCL freight, where density is weight divided by volume, is subject to weight pricing. The standard U.S. rule is to charge by weight if a box's density exceeds 45 pounds per cubic foot. Internationally, ocean freight shippers may set 1 CBM equal to a fixed number of kilograms, ranging from 500 to 1,000 depending on the shipper. Sea shippers may charge a minimum price that's equal to the charge for a 1 CBM box.

About the Author

Based in Chicago, Eric Bank has been writing business-related articles since 1985, and science articles since 2010. His articles have appeared in "PC Magazine" and on numerous websites. He holds a B.S. in biology and an M.B.A. from New York University. He also holds an M.S. in finance from DePaul University.

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