CBM Calculator

What is CBM and how do you calculate it?

In the business of shipping and moving goods from one country to another by air, sea or road, you often hear this term CBM being used. Short for “cubic meter”, CBM is a widely used unit of measurement in shipping and determines how much you pay for freight.

In this piece, we’ve compiled everything you need to know about CBM so that you can measure your cargo accurately and determine your shipping costs. Read on to know:

What is CBM?

Cubic meter or CBM is a measurement of volume of a shipment. It determines how much space your cargo will take up on a ship, aircraft or truck, which in turn will decide how much it will cost to transport.

How do you calculate CBM?

Length x Width x Height = CBM

This is the formula used to measure your cargo volume in CBM (m³).

Say, you have a carton that is 2 metres long, 2 metres wide and 2 metres high. Then, its volume is 2 x 2 x 2 = 8 m³.

And if you have 10 such identical cartons in a single consignment, you can simply multiply the CBM with the total number of cartons to arrive at the total volume is 8 x 10 = 80 m³.

If the cartons are not of the same size, calculate the CBM for each carton by using the same formula and add up the total.

How many CBMs in a container?

With many of us using containers to ship our goods, it’s important to know how many CBMs can be accommodated in a standa

20-ft-containers CBM Lenght Width Height Payload
20' Dry 33.2 m3 5.9 m 2.3 m 2.3 m 28,130 kg
20' Reefer 28.1 m3 5.4 m 2.3 m 2.1 m 29,140 kg
20' Open Top HC 36.8 m3 5.9 m 2.3 m 2.3 m 30,050 kg
20' Open Top 32.5 m3 5.9 m 2.3 m 2.6 m 27,970 kg
40-ft-containers CBM Lenght Width Height Payload
40' Dry 67.7 m3 12 m 2.4 m 2.4 m 28,750 kg
40' Reefer 67.7 m3 11.6 m 2.3 m 2.4 m 29,580 kg
20' Open Top HC 36.8 m3 5.9 m 2.3 m 2.3 m 30,050 kg
40' Open Top 66.8 m3 12 m 2.3 m 2.4 m 28,450 kg
40' Dry HC 76.3 m3 12 m 2.3 m 2.7 m 28,600 kg
45-ft-containers CBM Lenght Width Height Payload
45' Standard HC 86 m3 13.5 m 2.3 m 2.7 m 27,700 kg

rd 20-foot, 40-foot and 45-foot container:

Note: HC means High Cube; Payload is the maximum cargo weight a container can hold

How many CBMs in a pallet?

Like containers, pallets – flat structures used to support and secure cargo – come in standard sizes. The most common ones are the 48’’ x 40’’, 42’’ x 42’’ and 48’’ x 48’’1 pallets. One of these standard pallets can accommodate 1.26 m³.


Capacity of 20 ft container

As you can see, a 20ft container has a total capacity of 33 cubic metres (cbm), however in reality there is usually only around 25 cbm of usable space. The contents of a three-bedroom house (furniture, televisions, beds, boxes etc.) will normally fit inside a 20ft container, unless it is much more.

If ‘cbm’ isn’t a useful way of thinking about a container’s capacity, here are some other ways. A 20ft container can hold:

  1. 50-60 fridges or
  2. 100 washing machines or
  3. 400 flat-screen TVs or
  4. 200 full-sized mattresses

Capacity of 40 ft container