what is cbm

What is CBM: A Complete Guide

In international shipping, the weight of a consignment is a vital aspect in determining numerous elements.

Many carriers use the weight to determine the price quote.

Determining the weight also allows you to move the shipments effectively.

In this guide, you will know all the fundamentals regarding CBM. And this will enable you to have an idea of the essence of weight in international shipping.

Meaning of CBM in International Shipping


CBM is an acronym of Cubic Meter.

Ideally, it refers to freight volume of the shipment for domestic and international shipping.

CBM is the predominantly used unit of measurements in transportation of different types of cargos globally.

This unit of measurement is vital in shipment, transportation and air cargo, given overall shipping cost is dependent on the same.

Moreover, CBM is also essential in calculating the freight class, chargeable weight, and dimensional weight.

Dimensional weight refers to an approach of creating a theoretical figure representing bulky but relatively light consignments.

It is used in calculating the chargeable weight.

Chargeable weight simply the greater of the dimensional weight.

Ideally, pricing for ocean freight is often fairly averse to weight and more focused on size.

On the other hand, air freight is relatively more sensitive; hence the dimensional weight often plays a critical role than the actual weight.

Freight class is a theoretical number created by trucking carriers to compensate truckers for transporting oversized loads.

Most items shipped by trucks often go by simple freight class categories determined by weight.

Even so, CBM can play an integral role in determining the freight class.

All these are fundamental calculations in international freight, be it courier, ocean, or sea.

It is thus pertinent to know how to calculate the CBM of your consignment and the container as well.

How to Calculate CBM in Shipping

CBM calculator

Online CBM calculator

Calculating volume of your shipment is a common subject in international shipping.

If your cargo is Full Container Load (FCL), the freight charge for the same will be on a full load container basis.

However, where the cargo is Less Container Load (LCL), the freight charge will be on the basis of shipment volume.

Nowadays, there are several CBM calculators online.

Such online calculators enable the manufacturers to measure their consignments in terms of cubic meters easily.

Using online CBM calculators also makes it possible for you to convert a wide range of units into the standard ones.

In calculating CBM, the total weight of the cargo should never exceed 1 ton.

In other words, where the cargo’s weight is over 1000kgs, its volume is treated based on weight.

Typically, freight forwarders often charge the LCL rate per CBM or per weight of 1000kgs basis depending on which is higher.

Technically, the CBM calculation formula is relatively simple.

The formula entails calculating product of the quantity of items by length by width by height.

CBM = (Length x Width x Height) x Quantity of Items.

If you have a shipment with different sized items, you’ll need to repeat formula for each size then add up volumes.

Nonetheless, you must take note of the unit length, width, and height that must be converted into meters.

In some instances, you may have large items with a light overall weight charged depending on the space it covers on aircraft.

In such instances, it is the volumetric or dimensional weight used to calculate the cost of shipment.

It is thus recommendable that you calculate a volumetric weight for each shipment you are sending then compare it to actual weight.

Of the two weights, you’ll use the greater one to determine the price the air shipping company charges you.

The formula for calculating volumetric weight is;

Volumetric weight in Kilograms = (Length x Width x Height in centimeters) / 5000

This way, you’ll get the volumetric weight. You can always use the online calculators to calculate the actual figure.

Moreover, there are other applications you can as well download and have on your mobile gadget for easy and effective calculation.

Calculating CBM for Small Parcel Delivery

Calculating CBM for your product is quite easy.

You just need to pack it deftly into a cuboidal box to map the dimensions correctly.

After packing the parcel, measure the length, width, and height of the box, preferably in meters.

In case you have taken the measurements in other units other than meters, it is recommended that you convert it first.

After converting the units into meters, you can go ahead and calculate the CBM.

Similar to air freight, volumetric weight is also essential to calculate when you’re using courier service for small order.

The greater weight between volumetric and actual weight is used to determine the precise price the courier company will charge you.

Once you have the measurements of all three dimensions, multiply them to obtain the CBM value of your package.

The following is an example is the formula of how to calculate CBM for a small parcel delivery;

  • If the length, width, and height of your package is 1.5m, 2m, and 2m, respectively, the resultant CBM would be;

1.5 x 2 x 2 = 6CBM

Most carriers always provide a free CBM calculator to enable you to calculate the exact volume of your shipment.

You can as well utilize other reliable online calculators to determine the CBM of your parcel.

How to Ship Products from China via CBM

In many instances, CBM shipping from China involves the use of third party shippers.

Every entity has its respective policies and procedures when it comes to shipping items from China via CBM.

In general, though, irrespective of the entity you choose to use for this service, you must have an account.

Creating an account on any of the entity’s platforms is quite easy; you simply need to follow the prompts provided.

Once you create the account, you will obtain a unique China address, which you’ll need to copy and paste into the entity’s platform.

If you choose, you can make the address default one.

You then need to purchase all the items you need from the platform as you would ordinarily do and check-out once done.

However, you need to double-check to make sure the shipping address is correct.

In many instances, you’ll see the specific courier company the seller used to ship out your item.

In short, the entire process involves four main steps;

  1. Purchasing the item on the ecommerce platform
  2. Input the courier name and tracking number of your shipment
  3. Consolidation of the shipment and shipping it out
  4. Awaiting arrival of the shipment

Use of 3PF in CBM shipping

Third party forwarders are integral in CBM shipping.

In China, there are several third party forwarders you can choose to use when shipping your CBM products.

The ultimate choice, of course, is dependent on a variety of aspects such as cost, route, and duration.

Moreover, other ancillary services such as warehouse storage also play a role in determining the ideal 3PF for your needs.

Most of the 3PF in CBM shipping have relatively simple and user-friendly websites.

This makes it easy to navigate through when in need of the CBM shipping services.

It is also easy to gauge size and total cost of your CBM shipment when using 3PF.

They have calculators hence allowing you to determine the price before committing.

Using 3PF in your CBM shipping needs is also cost-effective.

For instance, some offer free warehousing and doorstep delivery services for parcels less than 0.5 CBM.

Some of the 3PF platforms also come with personalized features.

In essence, this allows you to determine various elements regarding storage, shipping, and delivery of your shipment.

However, it is also important to understand that shipping all your items with 3PF at once is always a cheaper option.

Nevertheless, it is the best method for shipping different items such as furniture, fittings, and décor to your home or office.

Types of Containers and their Respective CBMs

Determining the volume of your shipment is necessary when estimating the quantity of products which fit in a specific type of container.

Ocean shipping container often come in different varieties, as described in the table below

Container TypeLengthWidthHeightCapacity (CBM)Maximum (CBM)
20’589 cm234 cm238 cm26-2833
40’1200 cm234 cm238 cm56-5866
40’ High Cube1200 cm234 cm269 cm60-6872
45’ High Cube1251 cm245 cm269 cm72-7886

In calculating CBM for the container, you don’t use a simple arithmetic formula of comparing total shipment volume and maximum container capacity.

In principle, each time a container is loaded, it becomes relatively difficult to use up the entire space.

The amount of unused space in the container is dependent on size and shape of items you are loading.

It could as well depend on the type of packaging and how the items are stowed.

In most instances, however, the actual capacity within the container is about 80% of its maximum capacity.

Therefore, the table above allows you to get an idea of the quantity of items you can fit in respective types of containers.

Top carriers in China to consider in CBM delivery

In China, there are several carriers you may choose to consider for all your CBM delivery demands.

You just need to carry out thorough background research to determine the best one for your needs.

While at it, ensure you also consider the charges for each service provider.

Some of the common carriers you may choose include the following;

  • Global Fulfillment Solutions
  • JJ Shipping
  • China Railway Special Freight Company Limited
  • Shengyu Freight
  • Zhongtong Express
  • Linde Beijing International Transport Agency
  • International Transportation Limited (COMTRANS)
  • Shenzhen Marine Shipping Agency
  • Beijing Fansite International Transport Agency
  • Shanghai Tieyang Multimodal Transport
  • Guangzhou Trinity Marine International Freight Services
  • Everglory logistics
  • China Railway Express
  • Guangzhou Xiyang Logistics

Documents you need in Shipping CBM Packages

There are important documents, which you must have when shipping different types of CBM packages.

Some of these documents include the following;

Shipping documents

Shipping documents

· Bill of Lading

This refers to a ticket outlining the cargo’s journey from the country of origin to country of destination.

The carrier issues it to the shipper, and it describes the method of shipment irrespective of the path.

· Commercial Invoice

This is a document with a list of contents, which the supplier issues to the buyer.

It includes information such as name, specification, unit price, quantity, and total cost of the item.

A commercial invoice is vital since it allows foreign buyers to confirm the goods are paid for.

It is also vital in the customs clearance process.

· Packing List

This refers to a document that lists all the details of the consignment.

Often, it is used as a supplementary document of the invoice.

Some of the details in the packing list include packing method, packing materials, quantity, specification, and weight, among others.

· Insurance Certificate

This is a legal document proving the consignment is covered from any imminent damage or loss during transit.

· Certificate of Origin

This document ascertains the products you are shipping were manufactured in the specific country indicated on it.

It is essential, especially during customs clearance.

·  Import License

Depending on the type of product you are shipping, you may be required to produce an import license.

Products regulated or restricted may require you to obtain an import license since it is necessary during customs clearance.

· Test Report

This is usually common when importing different types of machineries.

In many instances, the authorities require a test report document to ascertain it to prove it meets all the required standards.

Determining the Better Shipping option Based on CBM

When shipping your consignment based on CBM, it is always important to figure out the best method to suit your needs.

Ideally, when shipping small parcels, it would be suitable to consider using airfreight.

It is faster and safe for such consignments hence making it cost-effective.

However, if you are shipping a relatively bulky shipment, which is always common with CBM, consider using ocean freight.

It is affordable but comparatively slow compared to other means of shipping, especially airfreight.

Tracking CBM Shipments

Once you have tasked a certain carrier with your CBM shipments, you can always track it throughout the transit process.

Most carriers usually integrate their systems with a tracking system.

Therefore, it becomes easy for you to track the progress of your consignment from the carrier’s platform.

Importantly, ensure you get the tracking number for your consignment.

It is the code you’ll use to monitor the progress of your shipment.

Alternatively, you may consider using third party tracking companies.

In this case, you’ll need to use the tracking code and key it into the third party system.

This way, you will easily track your shipment throughout the transit process.

As you can see from this guide, CBM is an integral element in international shipping.

Therefore, there is a need to make sure you get it right always.

Next time you think of shipping your shipments, ensure you review the CBM of your shipment.

Just in case you have any question, feel free to contact BanSar team.

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