Considered a high-value industry, air cargo is critical for serving markets that demand speed and reliability for the transport of goods. Though it only accounts for 1% of world trade cargo by volume, 35% of world trade value is carried by air.
Air freights are particularly well suited for transporting high-value goods because they provide highly controlled transport, direct routing, reliability, and unique capacity considerations. These capacity considerations decide how your cargo's weight is calculated and how it is priced.
Generally, the cost of your shipment is calculated based on the following factors:
In this article, we shall discuss the last two factors, which are the weight and volume of the shipment. When you plan for air freight transportation, you need to know how your shipment is weighed and therefore priced.
Your cargo is weighed based on multiple criteria. Your shipment’s chargeable weight could be based on either its gross or volumetric weight.
Gross weight, also called actual weight, is the total weight of a shipment. It includes the net weight of the actual product coupled with the weight of the packaging.
Gross weight of an aircraft is the summation of the aircraft, fuel, crew, passengers and cargo weights.
On the other hand, the weight of only the product itself is called net weight. And the weight of only the packaging is called the tare weight.
There could be several instances in which the net weight and gross weight of cargo remain the same. For example, for car tires which are shipped without any packaging, both net and gross weights will be the same.
Here’s the formula to calculate gross weight:
Product Weight + Packaging/Pallet Weight = Gross Weight
It is generally accepted that the actual weight of the cargo is measured using the metric system, e.g. kilograms and any imperial units such as pounds are converted into metric units for ease of calculation (1 kg = 2.205 lb). Let’s take a look at the example:
Product Weight + Packaging/Pallet Weight = Gross Weight
50 lb + 10 lb = 60 lb, converted to kilograms = 60 / 2.205 = 27.2155 kg
The air freight volumetric weight, or dimensional weight, is an estimated weight value based on a package’s length, width and height. It is a theoretical weight calculated using a minimum air cubic conversion factor chosen by the freight carrier. This is generally stated as 6000 cm3 = 1 kg or 1 cbm (cubic metre) = 167 kg.
To calculate the volumetric weight, there are a few steps. First, you need to calculate the volume of the shipment.
Length x Width x Height = Volume
Make sure that the volume is converted into cubic metres (m3) or cbm. If you are measuring the dimensions in inches, then you need to convert the volume from cubic inches to cbm (1 cbm = 61,024 cubic inches). And lastly, you need to do the air cubic conversion factor.
Here is an example of calculating the air freight volumetric weights if you measure the volume in cubic centimetres:
100 cm x 200 cm x 500 cm = 100,000 cm3
100,000 cm3 / 6000 = 16.7 kg
Or, if you got the volume in cbm, here’s what it's like:
100,000 cm3 = 0.1 m3 or cbm
0.1 m3 x 167 = 16.7 kg
You can also calculate the volume if the dimensions are in inches by using the formula: Length x Width x Height/366
Here is another example of calculating the air freight volumetric weights if you measure the dimensions in inches:
10 inch x 20 inch x 50 inch = 10,000 inch3
10,000 inch3 / 366 = 27.3 kg
You must be wondering why there’s a need to have two different measurements to calculate the airfreight chargeable weight of your shipment. It rests on the below principle.
Imagine two shipments of cotton and steel of similar weight. It is quite obvious that the cotton shipment will occupy more space than the steel shipment. The steel shipment, however, will weigh more. In such a scenario, should both shipments be charged by volume? Or should they be charged on the basis of weight?
Volumetric weight is significant to measure the space occupied by the shipment (volume or density). Whereas, gross weight is more focused on the weight of the shipment.
Air freight chargeable weight is different from the volumetric or dimensional weight and gross weight. Rather, the chargeable weight is the quantified weight upon which the carrier charges you on the invoice, which can be either the gross or the volumetric weight of your shipment, whichever is higher.
In any situation, freight carriers would always choose the higher value between the volumetric and the actual weight of the cargo. This is fair enough because cotton shipments will occupy more space while steel shipments will weigh more. In both cases, carriers would be choosing the measurement with greater value.
Let’s take a look at a measurement example. Here’s the known shipment measurement:
Let’s calculate the gross weight:
18 kg + 2 kg = 20 kg
Now let’s calculate the volumetric weight:
(50 cm x 25 cm x 70 cm) / 6000
= 87,500 cm3 / 6000 = 14.58 kg
Since the chargeable weight always uses the measurement with the greater value, in this situation we will use the gross weight, which is 20 kg. Next, you can check with the carrier or carrier’s agent for the price per kg and multiply it by your chargeable weight (20 kg) to get your total freight amount, excluding taxes and surcharges.
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