How to calculate cbm for a sea shipment

Written by will charpentier
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How to calculate cbm for a sea shipment
A container ship is just one part of intermodal shipping. (containerschiff image by Angelika Bentin from

Shipments by sea are calculated by size. Since the space aboard the ship is allocated in Trailer Equivalent Units (TEUs), how many containers a ship can accommodate in its hold and decks are based on 20-foot TEUs. Because the question is one of size rather than weight, sea freight is measured in CBM, i.e., cubic meters. The calculation for this factor is straightforward and can be done with a basic calculator.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Measuring tape
  • Calculator

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  1. 1

    Measure the length of the packed goods with a measuring tape. Convert this length (in feet) to meters by multiplying the length in feet by 0.3048. For example, if your packed shipment is 10 feet in length, then: 10 x 0.3048 = 3.048 meters.

  2. 2

    Determine the width of the packed goods. Convert the width to meters. If your packed goods are 8 feet wide, then: 8 x 0.3048 = 2.438 meters.

  3. 3

    Measure the height of your packed goods. If the goods are 5 feet high, then: 5 x 0.3048 = 1.524 meters.

  4. 4

    Use your calculator to multiply the height (in meters) by the width (in meters) by the length (in meters): 1.524 x 2.438 x 3.048 = 11.325 cubic meters. This is the CBM of your shipment when destined for ocean transport.

Tips and warnings

  • Make sure the container selected for shipment is appropriate for the size as well as the volume: a 20-foot dry container has a maximum capacity of 33.2 cubic meters. Forty-foot containers and "High Cube" containers have a larger volume (67.7 CBM for 40-foot containers and 76.3 CBM for High Cube containers). The weight restriction is that of a 20-foot container.
  • Compare the length of your shipment with the size of the container the shipping agent offers. If your goods are 22 feet long but only 40 CBM, you will require a 40-foot container because the freight is too long to fit into a 20-foot one.

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