Parts of King Edward Quay were cordoned off as Colchester Council seized boats that had been moored there illegally.
Two boats were taken by the local authority’s regeneration team on Friday afternoon following reports of unpaid licences and anti-social behaviour.
Colchester Council had been working for months to try and resolve the issue.
Eye witness saw the boats being removed with cranes and said pedestrians had to be escorted through the cordon.
A spokesman said: “Colchester Council has taken enforcement action against boats illegally moored on the King Edwards’s Quay who have continually refused to sign a licence to reside on there.
“This is the culmination of a long process where we have been working to respond to concerns raised by local residents.
“We were left with no alternative but to pursue legal action, which has resulted in the offending boats being removed from this illegal mooring on the river.
“The Council is committed to ensuring that boat owners sign a licence and adhere to its terms if they wish to continue to reside on the Quay.”
The boats will be taken to a secure location until a fine is paid but they will not be allowed to return to the quay.