CBM – what is it?

In the case of container transport, the so-called CBM (Cubic Meter, ‘cubic’ in short) unit is used to measure the volume of cargo. Its value is always calculated by using the packaging dimensions given in meters.

Calculation of sea freight rate

We divide the loads into full-container loads and less than container loads. The difference between them depends on the way you calculate the sea freight rate.

Full container loads, i.e., simply FCL (Full Container Load) – in this case, the freight rate is calculated according to the formula: basic rate + freight additions

LCL (Less than Container Load) – in this case, the freight rate is calculated on a weight/measure (w / m) basis. The price of transportation is always assumed to be higher, which results from the weight or volume of the shipment. This means that at a given price you can transport one ton or 1 cbm of goods. That is why when you calculate the freight rate yourself, you should always use the higher value. It follows that for a product with a volume of 3 cbm and a weight of 2 tons, the sample price of USD 100 will be multiplied by 3 because:

3 cbm x USD 100= USD 20
2 tons x USD 100 = USD 200

USD 300 > USD 200

It can be seen that the freight rate for cbm is higher, so in this case, it will be used later to calculate the sea freight rate.

Calculation of CBM values

After converting the unit in which the packaging dimensions are given to meters, multiply the data according to the formula:

Length x Width x Height

The following are two examples:

3,1 x 1,4 x 2,3 m = 9,982 cbm
2,7 x 1,8 x 3,3 m = 16,038 cbm

It should be noted that the prices of sea freight depending on the shipowner’s policy or route of transporting goods are usually given in USD or EUR. If the forwarder gives a price of USD 10 for CBM, then the rate will be the value of CBM multiplied by USD 10. For example, for 9,982 cbm the value will be USD 99,82, for 16,038 cbm it will be USD 160,38.


If in doubt, you can also use the free cbm calculators available on the internet:



We also encourage you to familiarize yourself with the conversion factors, which can help you estimate costs.

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