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If you are new to the logistics industry, you will probably not know what CBM in shipping is. If you have recently heard your logistics partner mentioning CBM, here is what it means. This article takes a closer look at the formula to calculate CBM and explains why it is important to calculate it. Also, understand the difference between volumetric weight and CBM.


CBM: Meaning

The full form of CBM in shipping is cubic meter and it is a method to calculate cargo volume for domestic and international freight shipments. In other words, CBM in shipping determines the chargeable weight of your shipment. So how do you calculate the CBM weight?

The formula for calculating the CBM weight is:

Length (L) x width (W) x height (H)

How to calculate CBM?

Calculating CBM for square or rectangular-shaped packages is simple. However, how to calculate other irregular shapes? Here is an explanation of how you can calculate the CBM of each shape.

Calculating the CBM of square or rectangular

It is easy to apply the above formula for square and rectangular packages. For example, if your square package is 2 meters in length, 2 meters in width and 2 meters in height, then the CBM will be:

CBM = length x width x height

CBM = 2 meters x 2 meters x 2 meters

CBM = 8

Now, let’s take an example of a rectangular-shaped package. If your package is 6 meters long, 4 meters wide and 3 meters in height. The CBM will be as per the following:

CBM = length x width x height

CBM = 6 meters x 4 meters x 3 meters

CBM = 72

Calculating the CBM of cylindrical-shaped packages

A cylinder or circular is a very odd shape. Here is a formula for calculating CBM for circular or cylindrical packages:

𝜋 x height x radius² = CBM


The value of 𝜋 is around 3.14.

You will need to measure the radius and height of the package.

For example, if the radius of the package is 2 meters and the height is 5 meters, then:

CBM = 𝜋 x height x radius²

CBM = 3.14 x 5 x 2²

CBM = 3.14 x 5 x 4

CBM = 62.8

Calculating the CBM of irregularly shaped packages

The formula for calculating CBM in shipping for irregularly shaped packages remains the same:

length x width x height

All you need to consider is the longest points of length, width, and height.

CBM calculation formula in cm/foot/inches

Now, if you have measured your package in centimeters or feet or inches, here are the formulas to calculate CBM.

CBM in centimetres = length x width x height ÷ 10,00,000

CBM in millimetres = length x width x height ÷ 1,00,00,00,000

CBM in inches = length x width x height

CBM in feet = length x width x height ÷ 35.315

How does CBM affect freight charges?

1 CBM translates to varying weight values in kilograms, contingent on the mode of transportation employed. Here is how it works.

  • Air freight: 1 CBM = 167 kg
  • Road freight: 1 CBM = 333 kg
  • Sea freight: 1 CBM = 1,000 kg

How to calculate CBM chargeable weight?

If you have noticed, CBM is calculated with the help of the dimensions of the shipment and not volume or gross weight. Does it matter?

Yes, it does matter. Let’s explain it in simple terms.

If you are shipping 1 Kg of cotton, it is light but fluffy, meaning its volume would be higher if compared to its weight. Now, if you plan to ship 1 kg of steel, it can fit in a smaller package as it’s hard and heavy.

In other words, the dimension of the package can be in contrast to its weight depending on the goods being carried.

In such a situation, how to calculate CBM chargeable weight?

Before we come to CBM’s chargeable weight, we need to understand the following terms

In such a situation, how to calculate CBM chargeable weight?

Before we come to CBM chargeable weight, we need to understand following terms.

  • Gross weight: The gross weight is the tangible or actual weight of the package. It is commonly measured in kilograms, tons, or pounds. One ton equals 1,000 kilograms.
  • Volumetric weight: Volumetric weight is also known as dimensional weight or DIM weight, it is a calculated approximation based on CBM to consider the bulk of lightweight packages.
  • Chargeable weight: It is the weight utilised for assessing the applicable charges. It may be either the gross weight or the DIM weight, depending on which one is greater.

CBM vs volumetric weight or gross weight: How do carriers calculate?

As mentioned above if the charges are going to be applicable as per the gross weight or volumetric weight, then why calculate CBM?

Although a package’s shipping cost is mainly calculated by its weight, the calculation of the CBM rate is important when dealing with lightweight shipments. In such cases, this is achieved by computing the overall volume of the box and utilising this measurement to ascertain the shipping freight cost.

Through the Tata nexarc Logistics page, you can easily find out the estimated cost for logistics services. Simply, visit the Tata nexarc Logistics page. Enter the source PIN code, the PIN code of the destination and the total weight of the shipment. Click on the submit button to get the estimated cost.

Concluding note

Although shipping charges are dominated by the gross or volumetric weight, it is important to understand how CBM works. It is especially significant for businesses that deal with lightweight higher volume products such as cotton, handlooms, and so on.

Swati Deshpande

Swati is a passionate content writer with more than 10 years of experience crafting content for the business and manufacturing sectors, and helping MSMEs (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises) navigate complexities in steel procurement, and business services. Her clear and informative writing empowers MSMEs to make informed decisions and thrive in the competitive landscape.