Prince looks at Hedland opportunities
Belgian Crown Prince Philippe tours Port Hedland harbour on Tuesday. Picture: Alex Massey/WA Newspapers

The last time a member of Belgium's royal family graced Port Hedland he drank the local Esplanade Hotel dry.

The year was 1973 and Port Hedland Historical Society vice-president Julie Hunt said then-Prince Albert created a bit of a stir when he continued to order drinks at an impromptu function but, naturally, didn't carry any money.

Mrs Hunt's father Jack Haynes was shire president at the time.

"His guards were in a fever but the Prince had a ball," Ms Hunt said, reciting one of her father's diary entries. "He kept ordering drinks and, as he did not have any money, I presume his aide-de-camp paid."

How things have changed since the 70s.

Port Hedland is now the world's largest bulk export port, Prince Albert is the King of Belgium and his son, Prince Philippe, is first in line for the throne.

There were no frivolities yesterday as Prince Philippe toured the burgeoning Pilbara town as part of a delegation investigating potential business opportunities.

Belgian dredging companies Jan De Nul and Dredging International, vital to the development of Port Hedland over the past decade, were of keen interest.

Other stops on the Prince's itinerary included BHP Billiton's Nelson Point operations, Port Hedland School of the Air and the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

Hedland: Prince Philippe inside the engineer’s cabin of a BHP Billiton locomotive at the company’s Nelson Point operations. Picture: Eric Lalmand

The West Australian

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