Sefco Export's on-line shippers guide for learning about cubic footage volume
and shipping personal effects and/or commercial cargo by sea and air.

Learn more about International Shipping and Sea/Air Freight - Volume/Weight


    Are you over-estimating the volume of goods you plan to ship overseas?
    Are you under-estimating? What will be the "chargeable weight"?

    Don't get "cube shock" regarding the final packed volume of your cargo.

    To obtain a volume estimate and shipping rate,
    create a basic packing list (with 3 dimensions HxWxD if possible)
    and send a copy to our head office, Sefco Export Management Company, Inc.

    Our main email is or via fax: 718-732-2863.

    You can use our on-line packing list form as a guide: inventoryform.pdf

    To self-estimate the net volume of various standard household items including furniture, you can also refer to our "Online Cube Sheet":

General Guidance and Advice

Learn more about
weight and measurement.

Sefco Export Management Company, Inc.
Overseas Moving Specialists

Feeling at a loss about where to start
and what to ask regarding moving overseas?

SEFCO offers valuable guidance and support

First, some basics:

Do you plan to move an entire household (including furniture)
or just a smaller quantity of personal effects?

FCL full container load site map FCL   Typically, a small family with an average living room, dining room, two bedrooms, kitchen, and misc. cartons for all your books, clothes, dishes, painting, decorations, etc., would be enough to fill one standard twenty ft (20') container -- with a capacity of about 1,000-cubic feet, holding approximately 6,000-lbs worth of household goods. This is called FCL Full Container Load shipping.

FCL full container load site map Larger households may require use of a forty ft (40') container -- with over 2,000-cuft. volume capacity, holding approximately 12,000-lbs+ Household Goods.

LCL   Smaller (ocean) shipments can go via the
    "LCL Less than Container Load" method.
    With LCL shipments the final shipping cost is based on the overall volume of goods being sent.

A smaller personal effects shipment sent by an adult (one) may average about 60 to 160-cuft, without a lot of large furniture.

What does cubic footage look like?

Fridge Picture a typical kitchen refrigerator, about 5 feet tall.
One average refrigerator takes up about 40-cubic feet of space.

So, if you wanted to figure the general volume
for a quantity of cartons you may have, then ask yourself:

"Do I have one, two or three refrigerators worth of space?"

Three "fridges" of space, means about 120-cuft.

Four "fridges" of space means about 160-cuft, Five means 200-cuft and so on.

Shipping by Air?
What will be the "chargeable weight" for your air cargo shipment?   [click here]

Shipping by Sea?
Make a list and write down the 3 dimensions of every item.

To figure out the cubic footage of any particular item:

multiply the height (in inches)
times the width (inches)
times the depth (inches) of the item,
then divide the resulting number by 1728.
The result gives you the volume, in cubic feet.

When boxes are stacked together in a square, often loaded and secured onto a pallet (or placed inside a crate) then total measurement is taken from the three extremes.
This is how a total "cube" of a shipment is determined.

Read more about how carriers measure cargo by visiting the links at the bottom of this page.

You are welcome to fax or e-mail SEFCO for a free evaluation.
Send us a general list of the furniture and items you plan to ship.

How to contact us: Email and Voice Contacts
Our main fax number in the US is:   718-732-2863

We can help you determine the best method to ship.
For our corporate accounts and greater convenience we can arrange for a pre-move survey of your goods to be packed & shipped overseas. The average cost billed to the corporate account is $ 175 for a comprehensive in-home export surveyors report. For more info go to: Export Survey Report

Origin Options

We pack or you pack, it's your choice.

We have an on-line rate guide for our export packing
"origin services" at: origin.htm and originrate.htm

Learn more about our
P-premium door to door overseas moving service.
premium full service overseas move

Learn more about our
Economy FCL & LCL, HHG/PE household goods - personal effects shipping service.
economy self service overseas move

SMALL shipments often go via AIRFREIGHT,
and the charge for air-shipment is based on:

Either the actual weight of each item placed on a scale, or the "dimensional" weight, whichever is greater.

International Air Freight
"DIM" weight is figured this way:

Multiply the three dimensions (H x W x D in inches)
then divide the resulting number by 166.

IF the resulting amount gives you a figure Higher than the "actual" weight of that item measured on a scale, then you'll be charged for the higher international "DIM" weight.


Picture a piece of styrofoam, 3 ft by 3 ft by 3 ft.
A child can pick it up, and it will weigh perhaps less than five lbs., right? But, when sending via AIRFREIGHT, the international "DIM" weight comes to over 280-lbs.


Volume displacement a big factor in international air-shipping.

Another simple way to figure out your international air "dim weight" is by multiplying the cubic footage, by 10.4

A 20-cubic foot carton will have a dimensional airweight of 208-lbs (20-cuft x 10.4 = 208-lbs chargeable airweight).

FYI, about European/American standards...

Weight: one kilo
= approx 2.2-lbs.
Measurement: one cubic meter
= approx 35-cubic feet

The average "density factor"
for household goods, personal effects...
is 6 - 7 (6.5) lbs. per 1-cubic foot volume.
very dense consignments (books, china)
can average closer to 12-lbs/1-cuft.

For: Full service D/D moves with export packers in your home.
    Our "O/A" Origin Agent export packers (professional HHG/PE household goods/personal effects movers) base their export packing charges on either the weight or the measure, whichever is the greater. In most locations the average/minumum density factor for HHG/PE export packers is 7-lbs per 1 cubic foot.

For: Smaller "LCL" consignments that need "trucking pickup only".
    Our broad network of "air-cargo truckers" within the USA are used to pickup smaller/already export-packed LCL less than container-load consignments for shipment by either sea or air.

    Their charges are based on "weight or measure" and the minumum density factor used throughout the domestic air/trucking industry is nine (9) pounds per one (1) cubic foot volume. So if you have a consignment that is 50-cubic feet in volume, the domestic/air cargo trucker charge would be based on 450-lbs (9-lbs/cuft x 50-cuft = 450-lbs) or more (if the actual scale weight of the cargo is greater than 450-lbs.)

    Remember that using full service export packers is not the same thing as using "straight trucking only" (no labor/just a truck with driver). Truck drivers (showing up at a curbside only) do not get involved in packaging goods or physical labor. Truck drivers, are not export packers. The are two different types of service.
Our web site further discusses such industry standards
as practiced within the Export/Import Shipping Community.

Learn more about "Density Factors"
Think of it this way -- in your home, weights you may use for exercising, probably take up little space but have heavy poundage. But then in comparison, rattan wicker furniture can take up a lot of space but weigh "not too much".

There usually is a "a happy medium" in overseas moves where people have
a "normal mix" of furniture and personal effects.

Agents dealing with overseas household good moves often assign a minumum "density factor" for their shipments, and this is on average 7-lbs per ever 1-cubic foot of volume for household goods and personal effects. It's just a matter of averages that seem to become standard over time - to those companies that specialize in this specific commodity (HHG/PE). This commodity often has its' own particular international routing system, in the sense that commercial cargo is often shipped separately from personal effects cargo.

Cargo agents and transport companies usually base their charges on the higher amount (of either the weight or the volume). In the shipping industry this is what is called rating
"by weight or measure (w/m), whichever yields the greater revenue"

This is a basic element for buying freight/cargo transport related services.

HHG/PE Household Goods and Personal Effects Overseas Moves.
Average Weight compared to Household Size,

For Overseas Moves there is a
Density Factor of 7-lbs per 1 cubic foot (on average).

Small tightly packed loads can average
9 - 12 lbs per cubic foot or more.

Other commercial commodities, like heavy equipment, stone, marble, machinery, printed matter, etc. can have considerably higher density to volume ratios.

 CCSB: Commodity Classification Standards Board 

image courtesy of

    Sefco Export Management Company, Inc. can arrange the importation as well as export of heavy commodities such as stone, tiles, marble, metal pipes, plumbing equipment, and other commercial products. Non-HHG/PE consignments (Commercial Cargo accounts) can be handled for registered companies. Companies can work with us after our sales department opens your account. Please call or email us.

Read our general advice...

Many "commercial cargo" forwarders and ocean consolidators will not service unprepared HHG/PE - household goods/personal effects shippers and cargo. If PBO-packed by owner cargo comes into a commercial CFS-warehouse for overseas shipment and it is insufficiently packed for export, it will most likely be rejected. If a shipper has "loose" cargo already packed into sturdy cartons, Sefco can arrange for prepacking/prepping of any "loose" items, suitably for export. LCL less than container load cargo can be palletized or crated.

If in doubt, check with Sefco Export in advance to ascertain if the packaging will be deemed sufficient. In some instances, a letter of indemnification will be required by the carrier.

FACT: Commercial cargo expeditors are very different from HHG/PE household goods/personal effects shipping specialists. Commercial accounts and personal effects shippers are two different categories.

What if you have commercial cargo that needs to be shipped and you not an already established commercial account? Access our commercial services:

We work with customers from the worlds most established and respected companies, governments and state-owned entities, as well as with start-up companies. "New to the business" entrepreneurs who are looking into international trade projects, can consult with our seasoned professionals and make a smart investment, by REGISTERING as a corporate account - to get solid business information. Sefco performs certain "special services" which includes acting as purchasing agents for our clientele. Buy and ship commodities to your designated overseas destination, through Sefco. Serious business research, analysis and confirmations - pertaining to international shipping/customs, import/export transactions, sourcing & purchasing - require a level of expertise not found in the general public. If you need real information for shipping commercial cargo going to a prospective overseas buyer, be sure to register your new account. Upon receipt of your initial deposit or retainer our specialists will work on your project.

Shipping a "LCL" less than container-load consignment?
    Don't get "cube shock". Get a realistic idea of what's ahead. You've got to find out the weight/measurement of what you plan to ship BEFORE you go ahead. This includes doing the math: writing down the total OUTSIDE dimensions of your cargo. Allow for the additional volume that any export packaging will give, as may be required to protect your goods. Write down all your information including the exact three (3) dimensions and weight of every piece, every crate, case, box, barrel, pallet, or other shipping unit being used for the goods. Send this information to us.

    By experience there is generally an increase in gross total outside dimensions when cargo is assembled into a square on a pallet. Our web site makes note of this, on our online guides:

    If one only measures the net dimensions of individual cartons and then adds up that number, it would be incomplete as it does not take into account fungible space with the "loose" cargo fit together into a square. When cargo is crated, there is even more volume added to take into account to crate around the cargo. Palletization has a smaller increase in gross dimensions after palletized/banded and secured suitably for export.

    As a general rule of thumb allow for 10-15% expansion from the net to gross volume of square cartons, after being fitted together on a pallet and shrnk-wrapped and banded together. For crates, on average allow about 20% expansion from the net to gross volume of the cargo (before and after being crated). If there are non-square items (e.g. benches) that would make for a poor fit together, this has an impact on the overall gross volume of cargo assembled into a square shape, staged/arranged/and secured onto a pallet or loaded into a crate. This advise is something commonly known by practitioners in the shipping industry.

    Regarding volume, we do not make up the numbers - we simply send along a copy of the cargo's information as it is received. If the cargo being shipped is not "ok" to go for whatever reason, it can be held back from shipment, and shippers are free to request an inspection appointment where feasible.

    Remember: We can not guess at what you plan to ship. You've got to give us the information. Hopefully correct information.

      Here's an analogy...

      Question: "How big is a hole?"
      Answer: "You just don't know, until you actually measure it."

    When sending cargo via the "LCL" method, every additional cubic foot in size, costs money. It's not like when you use an entire "exclusive use" ocean container, where you can just fill it up with as much - or as little - cargo as you want. Remember: LCL shipments are measured, and the cost for international transport is based on how big or how small the total measurement actually is. If you decide to add items to your LCL shipment, it will affect the final gross dimensions that are noted after all the goods are packed/palletized (and crated) for export. Before your LCL shipment is sent out, you must instruct us that it is officially "OK to GO". Read more about LCL shipping and volume: "Steps to Take" - "LCL Shipping Site Map"

    If you are buying goods and sending items to our receiving warehouse - and want to PROPERLY PLAN AHEAD, please take the time to get exact measurements for everything and send this information to our office. It goes into your file.

    If you are engaged in commercial business, please register with us. Consulting/Analysis and commercial support services can provided for a commensurate fee.

    Buying items to be shipped overseas?
    Ask your selected vendors for the dimensions of the goods you plan to buy and send this information to us, so we can better anticipate what you will be shipping. Our commercial consolidation warehouses can receive your purchases over an extended period of time. Procurement Services: If you would like, we can BUY & SHIP commercial goods for your account. For more information about our commercial services see:

More advice about volume...

How to determine volume displacement inside an ocean container?

Standard ocean containers are
approx. 7'9" high (93"), and approx. 7'7" (91") wide.

For every 1 linear foot taken up inside the container, there is approx. 55 cubic feet of volume, taken up inside the container.

    The mathematical formula:
93" (inside of container height)
x 91" (inside of container width)
x 12" (one linear foot) = 101556
divided by 1728 (which is 12 x 12 x 12) = 58.77
    This is where we get the figure "approx 55-cuft of volume, for every one linear foot taken up inside a standard 20-ft or 40-ft FCL ocean container."

So, for example, if you have a 20-ft container that is loaded inside with cargo stacked from top to bottom, and if there is about 5 feet of empty space left inside the container from the door to where the cargo stops, this would mean there is approximately 15 linear feet of cargo inside the container.

In this example:   15-linear feet x 55-cuft = 825-cubic feet.

This is how volume is often determined for "loose-packed/loaded" containerized cargo.
To learn more about measurement conversions
click here: [find out more about measurement]

"Know before you go."

It's only through many years of experience in moving household goods overseas, that one gets to know the "ins and outs" of this business.

Will this be your first time moving overseas?
All the more reason to work with people who have done it literally thousands of times, to destinations all over the world.

Access our website to view our photo galleries.
Sefco Export Site-Map: Images and Visual Content

Need more help understanding cubic footage?
How to Estimate Volume: [Cube Sheet]

Review our informative on-line guides:
"Steps to take" and "Informal advice"

...for further information and advice
    on shipping your HHG-household goods, personal effects,
        passenger car, SUV, truck, RV, boat or heavy equipment on wheels,
            or even your pets.

Shipping a vehicle?
Ro-Ro rates are based on the size of the vehicle. See our worldwide rate guides to generally compare costs. [click here] We recommend that you do a "Google Search" under your vehicles' specific year, make and model, and look up the specifications as stated by the manufacturer (Length x Width x Height) shown from the longest 3 points. If there are fog lights or other accessories that extend out, the SS line will include this longest dimension in how they determine the shipping charge.

Calculating the cubic footage of a vehicle
works the same way as described above, mathematically:
H (inches) x W (inches) x D (inches) divided by 1728 = the total cubic footage for the vehicle, boat, crate or other type of cargo.

Learning Curve?  No problem!    Continue your research using our free online tutorials.
For further advice and guidance for LCL shipping and FCL shipping, please see our following webpages:

Sending a small amount of personal effects?
Read our suggestions and recommendations about using a "super box".
More export packing, secure, tight and neat, is always better than less packing. Send it safely.

Moving Overseas?
For personalized attention and care, you have every reason to contact:

Sefco Export Management Company, Inc.
the "Overseas Moving Specialists".



To proceed with your international shipment: click here

Main Tel: 888-268-0565
Main Fax: 718-732-2863

    Additional reading / information resources:
    From time to time we will provide web-links to 3rd party sources involved with international shipping, to try to help explain things better.

    Being involved with international shipping for over 28 years, means that the people at Sefco know what's good, useful information and what is just advertising. We review what information is currently available on the internet and "separate the wheat from the chafe". Our web site will highlight the most useful guides and explanations. So please be sure to return to our web site to see our lasted updates.

          T H R E E     D I M E N S I O N S


    Shipping heavy equipment, boats, trucks/trailers, AG equipment... ?
    We have also incorporated information from major "RoRo" steamship lines that handle heavy equipment (cargo on wheels) and you can access some of the visual aids and explanations on the following web page:

    We update our web site periodically to edit and add further information that might be instructive and useful for our shippers. We hope the above is useful.

Have a question or comment about SEFCO or the SEFCO website?
Please feel free to contact us to advise us of your thoughts.

v.05/2014 copyright 1997-2014 ©J.Quinn/