More than 1,200 strikers paralysed ferry services between Dover and Calais and halted train services through the Channel Tunnel.
Workers on ferries linking Brittany with the UK blockaded a motorway junction in Rennes, and the departure of a ferry from Caen for Portsmouth was delayed.
The strike prompted fears of industrial unrest throughout the holiday season. Transport unions say the end of duty-free would destroy 3,000 jobs in the Calais region, 15,000 in France and 140,000 across the EU.
Brenda O'Brien, assistant general secretary of the EU Federation of Transport Workers' Unions, said: "I think it is a very big possibility that there will be more disruptive action."
The strike began at 8am British time and finished at 2pm. P&O Stena, the ferry operator, cancelled 14 sailings between 6am and 12.15pm. Eurotunnel said all passenger trains were cancelled between 10am and 1.30pm. Freight trains ran despite the strike but no lorries were allowed through until a blockade in Calais was lifted.
Keith Southey, of the Dover Harbour Board, said: "It was a much quieter day than usual. Customers have obviously heeded the warning that they would be unable to sail to Calais."
Despite the warnings, some day-trippers had their outings ruined. Jim Anslow, 59, from South Wales, said he was disappointed by the delays but sympathised with strikers. "We are talking about thousands of people who will be put out of work all over Europe."
Hauliers said the strike would cost the industry pounds 1m. The Freight Transport Association spokesman Geoff Dossetter urged ministers to put pressure on France to crack down on the strikers.
Eurotunnel profits, page 17